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Hell's Teeth (1st Place)

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Punkamoar avatar Punkamoar
Retired Moderator
Level 53 : Grandmaster Musician
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The air smelt of sulphur and ash. The heat was unbearable as hundreds of trees burned. Blood rushed into the water as two men burned on the riverside. A bright purple light burned through the fire, white spirits flying about. One man stood in front of a doorway; where the purple light was emanating from. He seemed oblivious to the fires behind him, and the two men being immolated beside the river. Laughter rang out, as one deranged man desperately tried to quiet the voices screaming in his head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

  A light breeze ran through the trees, animating their leaves into a fiery wave of red and gold. A crow sat, watching two finches fight over half an apple left over from a wasteful deer. A large river ran nearby, with the occasional splash from a startled frog or playful fish. There was a fox on the bank, waiting for a fish to wander close enough to snatch. Geese flew overhead, their skein pointed straight south, towards the promise of a mild winter. The air was close that deep in the forest, the heat trapped beneath the pine boughs and maple leaves. The season was changing, the cycle of seed and harvest moving on.

  Three men stopped by the water, barely noticing the matted grass on the bankside, where the fox had been lying not two seconds before. They carried large packs on their backs, and each man had an axe in his hand. They stopped, and watched the fox run deeper into the forest, chuckling amongst themselves. Their mirth stopped quickly, when the fox perched itself on a large monument, starkly purple against the gold and red of the fall forest.

  “Hellsteeth, what is what?” Torr muttered under his breath. Rufus breathed out sharply. “That looks to me like one of the old doors to Hell, as it were. I can’t believe one of them survived this long.” Levin turned towards Rufus. “How the hell do you know?” Rufus shouldered Levin sharply to the side, as he walked towards the purple monument. “My great-grandpa was a holy man, who spent his entire life studying one of the old gods, an immortal with the power of flight, and the ability to open portals to the underworld. This stone is obsidian, extremely valuable stuff. Most of these portals were torn apart years ago for that stone. I really can’t believe it.”

  Levin wasn’t impressed. He hefted his axe onto his shoulder. “Sure, sure. That’s nice and all, but we still have a quota to meet. Our crew will be here in three days, and we need to mark two score trees by then… Torr, what the hell are you doing, buddy?” Rufus turned away from the portal, to see Torr’s vacant expression and unnatural walk towards him. “What are you up to, Torr? ...Torr?” Rufus asked, as Torr pushed past him, and laid his hand on the portal. His entire body contorted, as if he had been struck by lightning. He began screaming, his clothes starting to smoke.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Winds are blowing hard
Bringing the heat of hell
The faces of the damned
No one lives to tell

~~~~~~~~~~~~

  Rufus and Levin ran to him, and pulled him away from the stone. Torr was unconscious, his body was cold, and his clothes were still smoking. His companions pulled him back to the river, and splashed some water on his clothes, to try and quell the smoke. The water roused Torr just slightly. His head rolled back, and he began murmuring. “Trees, wind, fire, damnation… Trees, wind, fire, damnation...” Rufus caught him, and cradled his head. “Levin, get the tent set up.” “Now wait just a damn…” “Damn it Levin, this is really bad. Get that stupid tent put up. Now.”

  Rufus stripped Torr’s jacket and shirt off of him, and submerged his head and torso into the river. Torr was shocked back into full consciousness, letting out a brutal scream. Rufus pulled him back out, and laid him down on the riverbank. Digging around in his pack, he pulled out a bottle of stout and a tin cup. Pouring a tall drink, he propped up the shocked man, and forced him to drink. The strong liquor calmed him down, and after he drained the cup, he coughed up. “Another… please.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hundreds of stormcrows flocked into the charred forest. A storm had blown in, quelling the fire from the night before. Two dozen men walked around the two corpses by the riverside, trying not to retch at the horrific sight. Both men had their necks cleaved halfway off, and both were half burnt. Nearby, they found a badly burnt fox carcass, nestled below a large purple monument. “Sir, we’ve identified these men as William Rufus and Peter Levin.” “Ah yes, these men were marking the trees we were to cut. Hell of a job they’ve done, eh? Burned half the forest, and got themselves killed. Where’s the third one, Aidan Torr?” “We’ve only found the two, sir. There’s no sign of a third.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

  A crackling noise cut through the night. Smoke rose above the treetops, and melted into the blue-black expanse. The birds had stopped their chirping, yielding their music to the cicadas. The moon was almost full, but the sky was cloudy that night. A glow emanated by the river, where a fire was raging in the shadow of the purple monument. Three men sat by its glow, passing a bottle of stout around.

  “Nah, that’s a load of bull.” Levin said over a long swig of stout. “I don’t believe it. That is just a fancy pile of rocks. How the hell did that make you see pretty pictures in your head?” Torr, while slightly recovered, was still pretty haggard. “It wasn’t just pictures, it was voices, too. They called to me, to have me touch the portal. They got inside my head, quietly forcing me forward. When I touched the stones, it changed. They began screaming at me, “Trees, wind, fire, damnation.” It's like they’re still echoing between my ears. I can still hear them.” Rufus took the stout bottle back from Levin, and drank. “One more time, what did you see? I still can’t grasp it.” “It was a distorted version of this very forest. It felt like I was right there. The air was unbearably hot, with ash and dust in the air. It smelt of sulphur and decaying flesh. The trees were blue, the ground was blue and red. It was, it was…” Torr trailed off, and suddenly winced. “Could you hear that?” Rufus and Levin lifted their ears, and listened to the cicadas for a few moments. “...What should we be hearing Torr? I can’t hear a thing.” “I thought I heard voices in the air. Are you sure you can’t hear anything?” Levin kicked a log further into the fire. Rufus put the empty stout bottle back in his pack. “Go ahead and lie down in the tent Torr, see if you can sleep this off. The night is warm enough, we’ll sleep out here tonight.” Torr stood, and slowly walked to the tent. When he lifted the flap, he asked again, “Can’t you hear anything? I thought they were in my head, but I hear them so clearly…” Levin shook his head. “Get in there, and sleep this off. We have work to do tomorrow.”

  An hour passed, and Rufus and Levin continued to sit by the fire. “This isn’t good Rufus. We’re gonna need Torr to finish this job. If the boys show up before we get those trees marked, we’re getting sent up the river. I need to keep this job.” “I know Levin. Hopefully Torr can sleep this one off. I don’t understand this magic, but there’s nothing we can do to help him. Throw another log on the fire, and let’s hit the hay.” Right as the two were laying out their bedrolls, they started hearing sounds from the tent. At first, it was the normal tossings and turnings of insomnia. But after a few minutes passed, the sounds of torment began. Levin and Rufus both stood as Torr stumbled out of the tent, a panicked and crazed look in his eyes. “Hey Torr, you gotta lay back down. You’re looking worse.” Torr didn’t seem to register a single word. He tilted his head sideways, and asked, “Can you not hear them?” He lurched forward, like he was possessed. He grabbed at one of their axes, quietly leaning on a tree. He began screaming at Rufus and Levin. “Can’t you hear them? CAN’T YOU HEAR THEM?”

  It was chaos. As if on cue, the wind began roaring through the trees. The fire by the bank was stoked into an inferno, quickly blowing onto the dry ground. Within seconds, it had taken the forest. Rufus and Levin were being forced backwards towards the river one step at a time, when truly, all hell broke loose. A purple light burst from the portal, when the fire met the stone. Torr began smiling, a horrific grimace burning across his face. He broke into a run, with his axe swinging. He kept screaming:

“CAN’T YOU HEAR THEM?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~

This is my entry for the Tales from the Nether story contest. 1531 words.

CreditIdk my brother proof-read it, and Chron did something at some point
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