Upon a Distant Star
Ghalek stared out across the red sands and broken orange-brown rocks at the thin white band set across the desert’s breast, and the shining spike rising up into the sky above it, the glittering hues of the god’s shields dancing in the empty, white sky above it. The bloated corpse of the black sun sagged on the rim of the world behind him, painted crimson by the dust hazing the air and throwing long, sharp shadows that stretched towards the distant city like grasping claws.
He snarled, his rippling gills flaring irritably as he spat a vicious wad of yellow mucus and all the hate he could muster towards the distant white walls of the city of men. Behind him, the tribe waited — broad, hulking, sharp-fanged beasts decorated for war in phosphorescent smears and sworls, hungry for red blood to be shed and dark flesh to be torn — and behind them the shadowy and indistinct haze hung, vaguely hinting of exposed bone and tattered flesh and red-eyes, a silent entity urging them onwards with silent cries only Ghalek could hear.
They had traveled from the green lands to the north, across the unforgiving bosom of the Mother, coaxed by vengeance and Ghalek’s promises, by the spirits of the slain children of the red sands and the unquiet ghosts of a half-forgotten history turned legend and then religion, to the citadel of the last of the Defilers, the murderous gods of men who had raped the Mother of all she once held.
Ghalek motioned the tribe into action with one massive hand and a wicked smile on his broad, craggy face and they impatiently gathered the fuel that would bring down the ancient and never-breached walls of the humans’ hiding-place, where they lived safe from their sins. He would bring justice and death to the last Defiler and his people.
Night fell swiftly as the dying sun passed beyond view into its grave beneath the edge of the world, and the unwavering stars washed swiftly across the dark heavens like the burning eyes of the dead staring down from the sky, brilliant and white with fury and hunger. That hunger was echoed below as Ghalek licked his broad, yellow lips with a black tongue and smiled, thinking on how he would soon be able to gratify his palette on the sweet and tender flesh of cursed man.
The fire was lit, the stones burning golden bright against the sides of the shallow, sandy pit they lay within, a beacon in the black desert night, a star on the dust of the Mother’s breast, built from an ancient pattern as old as the sky.
Ghalek stood before the flames, chanting enticing, meaningless words passed down for generations and given to him for his ability to use them, waiting for the spirits to come, calling out Her name amid the other words, calling Her to him, calling Kashshanadra, the vampire-demon.
“I call you at sun’s setting, when the barriers are lowered, to haunt the dreams of men and gods and taste their essence, dark goddess of the night, eater of unborn children, born anew upon this night to feast and live, to suckle and swallow and drive deathly desire. Come again to our world.”
The tribe squatted quietly around him in the shadows cast by the golden fire, tiny black eyes shining under heavy brows fixated upon him or the flame, warpaint glowing brightly in the shadows like stilled wisps of fey magic. When the fires turned a blood red, a haunting, ululating cry arose, resonating from deep, thick throat and vibrating gills, and floated across the sands towards the distant band of white that was the walls of the ancient human city, and made the watchers upon its walls shiver and pray to their god.
And when the flickering hues of colored lights above the distant spike faded, the chill winds of the desert rushed across the sands like a fleet army carrying silent and unseen ghosts forth over the impossibly high walls. Ghosts raised from wars forgotten and passed into legend and then myth a thousand years ago.
It was to be a night of nightmares and ill-sleep for the men of the ancient white-walled city, and Ghalek smiled, baring a mouth of wicked fangs.
“Man will suffer now, at last,” Ghalek pronounced to himself, though the others could easily hear him, “for the excesses of his sins. And we will take back the stolen star.” Massive yellow fists were raised to the black, star-flecked heavens and the tribe gave forth a resonating roar that bled with passion and aching desire — a bloody star upon the barren sands calling out to its hot, white brothers in the vast sky.