Dark clouds loomed eerily around the snow-capped mountains; wind was still along the peaks causing the clouds to become thick and omnipresent. Fog spread through the forested valley from the nearby coast, aiding the clouds in hiding earth from the moonlight. Native fog-flowers gave off a mystical light when the oceans fog spread throughout the forest.
On the edge of the forest a group of goblins took refuge away from the imposing forest. Tonight the forest smelled of robust mushrooms and spicy mosses which were favored by this particular goblin hovel. The smell beckoned the goblins out of their home, the light from the fog-flowers would help guide the goblins through the forest.
Gasping for air as mud rained down a goblin hand shot out from the shrouded hovel hole. Mud squished between his stubby green fingers as he heaved himself onto the ground. He wore a bright green hat constructed from the fibers of the local trees, bark covered his scarred face. As he sniffed the air, he knew the robust smells were coming from the mountainside near the Old Tree.
Goblins were typically frightful, leaving their hovel for very few reasons; though something about tonight beckoned the overseer to leave and no goblin could go against their leader’s will. The overseer bellowed a series of calls, and soon dozens of goblins began to pull themselves to the surface, one by one. Most of the goblins were wearing elaborate clothing made from tree fibers that had been dyed using several different types of fog flowers, each pattern was different and gave each goblin their own identity.
Animals in the forest scurried away from what became a cluster of different colors: blues, reds, greens, yellows, and purples. Men, women and children climbed out of the hovel; goblins traveled together in a band, no one was left home. Weapons were given to the majority of the hovel-mates, the few who received no weapons carried babies on their backs in woven sacks.
Whistling a particular tune the bark-faced goblin gained the attention of all seventy of the others. After issuing a series of hoots and howls, the goblins knew they were heading north toward the mountainside. They marched on in four columns, the masked goblin guided them the whole way through.
Several goblins hummed a sweet melody that seemed to make the ground around them spring in excitement. Others broke off and began to frolic amongst the bushes gathering blackberries. Sages, sorcerers, and magi took this time to gather rare herbs, leaves, roots, and berries that were needed in particular acts. Tailors gathered bark, fog-flowers, and fibrous tree material needed to cloth more hovel-mates. Smiths gathered stone, clay, metals, and wood for which to make weapons, utensils, and structures in their underground hovel.
Above them, dark clouds began to sag unleashing a torrential downpour, the masked goblin grunted, and the whole band grew stiff and closed their eyes. A lightning bolt snapped amidst the clouds, which lit up the whole forest. Shock waves rippled through the trees, snapping branches off and threatening to throw some of the goblin children away. Thunder continued to shake the ground beneath them. They could do nothing but open their eyes and continue along their present course.
As the thunder grew increasingly more chaotic, the children became jostled, erupting into hysterical laughter. Seeking to calm the children, the caretakers followed as their leader guided them through the muggy forest. They stopped whenever their overseer sensed a lighting strike, but nothing else stopped them.
As the goblin leader led them deeper into the forest the tree canopy became thick, shielding them from the rain. Here in the deep woods, the fog was the thickest. If it weren’t for the fog flowers, the goblins would never have left their sheltered hovel. That smell of robust mushrooms, which made the goblins decide to leave returned; their leader knew he was on the right trail.
One child, who some claimed to have foresight began to cry. She stopped in her tracks and began mumbling, she was far too young to speak. Several goblins hesitated to follow their chieftain further into the forest. With the young girl remaining defiant, the overseer had commanded a caretaker to apprehend the child.
They wandered deep into the woods, until there was no fog; they could no longer hear the falling rain or the piercing thunder. The bark faced goblin exhaled, and bellowed a few guttural cries. Each goblin echoed the same guttural cry, signifying that they were nearing the ancient grove. The surrounding air grew thick, damp and hard to breathe.
The air moved at a constant speed back and forth, as if the forest was breathing.
All around them, the goblins could hear the cries of the ancient grove. Calling out to them, some cries begged for mercy while others screamed for vengeance.
“Stop it!” A voice screeched from the east, its tone threatened to rupture their ear drums.
No matter the trouble the goblin leader proceeded forward, as if being guided by an unknown force, no one noticed his features tightening up on his face beneath the bark mask. His skin began to turn a light green color, blue veins could be seen under the thin layer of skin and soon blood began seeping from his pores.
Another voice shouted, a deep voice that reverberated inside the small goblins lungs, “Tainted! Tainted!”
A piece of flesh snapped from the goblin leaders face, blood dripped down his whole body, but no goblin could control their movements. The snap was loud enough for the goblins to hear but each one had a blank look on their face as they tread on their leaders face as they entered the ancient grove.
Soon they reached their destination, the Old Tree; several malevolent and benevolent spirits were banished into the tree by wicked and righteous men. Entering the sanctuary the enthralled goblins could do nothing but watch the sap hardened bark of the tremendous tree. The voices in the forest grew more frequent and the goblins could now see that the trapped spirits were being painfully ripped from the tree by a brood of harpies.
There were no mushroom or mosses. The harpy brood used the arcane to produce the smells enticing and entrancing all who smelled their pheromones. One harpy flew over the seventy goblins singing a lovely melody which entranced them further. She called out to them in a shrill, unnerving voice.
“Stay, for you have been invited to the Exposure.”
On the opposing end of the grove appeared a group of seventeen humans, men and women, and soon the brood knew their lure had worked. Brightest among the harpies, their Coven Queen, began to laugh as she nose-dived toward the humans yelling out in an ancient tongue. The old harpy was casting a curse upon the humans that would cause their body to mutate into a hideous canine. She snatched one of the unsuspecting humans up in her large talons and bite off the head sealing the curse with blood and flesh.
All sixteen humans began to writhe around on the floor. Hair fell out in bloody clumps as they began to grab their heads from the agonizing pain. A few curled up into a fetal position, wrapping their arms around their knee’s which began to break and snap; their flesh peeled away from the pressure of their hands. Some of the humans began to puke white foam and blood as their teeth and tongue fell out.
The goblins were fixated on their leader. He was facing the Old Tree. His ceremonial mask had fallen to the floor, the highest crime known to an overseer. He had not uttered a single word in the eight seconds that had elapsed.
One harpy began to whisper a spell as she fell out of the sky. A bubble formed around her which allowed her to access the broken veil between the material and netherworld.
As she fell through the sky in the protective bubble the harpy shoved her wretched hand inside of the torn veil, seizing a feathered beast with the skull and paws of a canine. As she pulled the feathered canine from its abode in the netherworld the veil sealed behind him. It shrieked as it more than tripled in size from the oxygen rich atmosphere.
“Plumose, my pet!” cried the harpy’s Coven Queen.
Plumose was much larger than any of the other beings. His coat shined despite there being no light illuminating the fine orange, yellow and white feathers. He had the face of a wolf, and feathered antennae that allowed him to fly. He hopped gracefully on the ground issuing several otherworldly cries, shrieks and howls that sent chills up the spines of the entranced goblins.
Moments later the harpies and Plumose descended upon the goblins. Before the harpies reached the goblins their leader turned around. The flesh from his face was gone, nothing but pale white bone remained. He dropped to the ground as the harpies began their slaughter,
As the overseers body crashed to the floor the trance broke, goblins were being heaved into the air and smashed against trees. Flesh, entrails and bone were being scattered by the large talons but some goblins fought back. Others were hell bent on running, they were the first to perish.
Blood dripped off the netherworld beasts coat of feathers, as if there was a thin coat of oil on them. It was an adaptation given to all netherworld beings to prevent the Mikohuaga from spreading from the material world into the netherworld.
One harpy sought to bind the tree spirits to her body and began to vocalize her will, one after another a spirit entered her body. Putting a toll on the harpies body the spirits forced the winged witch to regurgitate several chunks of goblin.. Soon the spirits had taken full control of the harpy and blood began pouring from her eye sockets.
Shouting in unison the spirits voice shook the trees around the ancient grove, and a tiny beam of light penetrated the thick forest canopy. As the possessed harpy touched the beam of light her coven maids watched in horror and shrieked.
The possessed harpy exploded into a radiant pile of gore; bloody feathers and entrails littered the ancient grove.
On the opposite end of the grove, the snapping of limbs seized, piles of flesh and hair were everywhere. The ground was stained red, the old tree began to seep sap from every pore as if it were crying. Laying paralyzed the humans no longer had the bodies of men and women.
Where the beam of light exploded the harpy appeared an evil being with decaying cracked skin, blood oozed from each crack. Its eyes were a piercing yellow and it looked at the harpies who were devastating the poor goblins with a vile sneer. Glancing at the Coven Queen the ancient demon shouted incoherently, its cries awoke the cursed humans who were now turned into werewolves. Hisses from the demon called the attention of one of the harpies, as he pointed at the harpy her skeleton was ripped out of her flesh and she twitched on the ground spraying more blood over the grove. Using the skeleton to impale several goblins the demon looked upon the scattered chaos in the open field under the Old Tree’s canopy.
Smelling the exposed flesh the werewolves howled and jumped into the frenzy of the feeding harpies. Their appetite was ferocious and the ritual had left them with a deep anger inside. Two harpies were mauled to death by the werewolves, a third was fortunate enough to conjure a pool of lava which incinerated the werewolf on contact, catching the forested grove on fire.
A werewolf lunged forward falling onto the back of a harpy who just took flight. Digging his thick claws into the harpies back she dropped closer to the ground. After a few seconds of struggle the werewolf reached the top of her back and snapped its large mouth at the harpies head decapitating the evil witch. As the harpy plummeted toward the ground the werewolf howled at its own misfortune before smashing headfirst into the Old Tree.
Plumose, the netherworld beast summoned by the coven leader soared gracefully under the tree branches and issued a challenge to the demon spirits. Breathing deeply the deranged demon withheld a tremendous amount of air. As he sucked in his breath Plumose was ripped from the air on a collision course for the demons gnashing maw. Kicking with all his might Plumose hit the demons stomach, its touch became as hot as fire, shocking the demon spirit.
“Foolish daeva-pet.” The demon shouted, the cracks in its face shattered, falling to the floor. Beneath it a new face that was even more malevolent than the last stared back at the netherworld beast.
As the demon began to punch Plumose the harpy who summoned the netherworld creature shrieked. She flapped her wings, soaring straight up; a dark mist gathered around her as she began to unleash more magic. A veil bubble appeared around her body and she reopened the veil. She shoved her talon into the tear in the veil and they appeared behind the demon which was pummeling Plumose. Her sharp talon penetrated the otherworldly flesh of the demon a black goo seeped from the wound but the demon was not fazed.
One werewolf grabbed a goblin and threw him at the unsuspecting harpy who led the coven. Penetrating the veil bubble the goblin and harpy were both sucked into the veil which was sealed behind the magi who opened it, all that remained was the twitching talon of the coven leader behind the demon. Howling triumphantly the werewolf bolted for the demon who began to calm a bit realizing that the main harpy threat was gone. As the demon relaxed its grip on Plumose he opened his gaping maw and bite half the demons head off, electricity sizzled and cauterised the wound though a few of the spirits returned to the Old Tree.
Two harpies worked on corralling several goblins who they kept circling, one harpy dropped to the ground and recited a verse from an old necromancer poem. As she continued to sing the poem, the creaking of bones could be heard as the dead goblin skeletons were ripped out of their flesh suits and began to march behind the harpy, following her will.
Conjuring the skeletal remains of the dead goblins a harpy soared into the air with a mighty shriek.Watching as their dead friends skeletons were torn from their flesh, the goblins panicked. Some of the skeletons began to crush the goblins with physical force. Others ate the flesh right off their bodies, the goblin could do nothing as they watched their flesh and organs enter the skeletons mouth and fall onto the floor after entering the throat.
As the skeletons continued eating their goblin counterparts an intense purple light shined, a figure appeared before everyone, the figure was different for each being who laid eyes upon it. Shuddering once the ominous presence caused time to slow to a trickle, the figure was the only being capable of traversing at a normal speed. He frowned as he witnessed the harpies taint the great magical gift he had bestowed upon them, their quest for power made them evil. Without any effort the bodies of the remaining harpies began to age rapidly and soon they were nothing but dust.
Looking upon the werewolves who were tearing through the flesh of the goblins, the figure made the goblins insides boil which caused all their orifices to ooze blood. Boiling blood fell onto the ravenous werewolves who were now howling in pain, the figure took this time to turn them inside out a slowly rot their organs.
Looking upon the weakened Plumose the figure beckoned.
Speeding through time and space the young netherworld creature fell into the hands of the unknown figure who drew him into the netherworld through his palm.
“Yahzugai!” The demon spat.
“Why do you detest me young spirit? I am the Father of Time.” Yahzugai’s voice was somber and monotone sending a chill through the demons body, “And in time you will come to peace with all that you have done and you be at peace, until then your exile into this great oak tree will continue.”
The demon shrieked, “Don’t test me Old Spirit! Release me from your power!”
Yahzugai sat the demon down and stripped it of its material flesh leaving behind an aura of numerous hues. Yahzugai sat there humming an otherworldly tune, the grass around him and the demon died from the eerie humming, as he plucked each individual spirit from the demon carcass and plunged them back into the tree. Each spirit had a different voice, though each was equally uncomfortable.
“One day tree, you will be free. Free of the taint of these foreign spirits, until that day, this is your first blood. Let it be your last.”
Resonating from Yahzugai’s naval the intense purple light returned; his figure being dispelled as the light overtook his shape. Time sped forward as Yahzugai made another attempt to clean the ancient grove, all the death which had taken place was now being rapidly aged to fertilize the now overgrown forest floor. Doubling in size in a matter of minutes the Old Tree now overtook the forest canopy allowing light to penetrate to the forest floor for the first time in six thousand years.