Upon the polished tiles of alabaster marble glided a figure gaunt and garbed quaintly. The bleak hallway of opaque white lingered into a coiling miasma of black –- infinitely cold and eddying in its pitchy depths. The odd décor of arabesque patterns upon the papered walls gleamed whitewashed beneath the moonlight, which spilled forth from casements draped in blood red. Through these windows, dusty parapets rose ominously against the pink sky, their blackened faces looming over vacant battlements in silent vigil. Hills blanketed in dense wood rolled beyond a stone bulwark, and at their edge sat a small town glowing dimly in the growing light.
Augustine’s passage through the ghastly corridor produced upon the cold marble floor an unnerving serpentine slithering. The starkness of his black robe hypnotically coalesced into the shadows. He passed tall portals of dark wood lacquered unsparingly with mephitic oils, and stone daises whose glassy surfaces reflected the sputtering sconces, dim flames tossing luridly in the musty darkness. Upon each dais sat an odd figurine or statuette; artifacts carved intricately of ivory or pristine obsidian, resembling those things which the mind can conceive only in the darkest of nightmares. Oily portraits of noblemen grinned at his passing; their fragile vampiric countenances suggesting a time long ago. In the lofty heights of the rustic ceiling were folding stone faces and wooden girders veiled in cobwebs and the dust of time.
Augustine approached a dark portal lacquered heavily with pungent oil and ornamented by a charm of silver, encrusted with a profound ruby of sharpest red. He placed his hand upon its curved handle, pausing briefly to breathe deeply the peculiar odor. The bitterness of a half century fooled his senses as a knave of time’s breadth. He heard faintly a discordant ringing of gothic bells from another chamber and then a queer chant accompanied by an evil plucking of lute strings. His thin lips melted into a tight line and he entered the room.
* * * *
He observed a sterile room crowded with polished metal marvels reflecting the world in warped mimicry. Six metallic caskets seven feet in length and five in width lay upon polished stone catafalques, mirroring the low stone ceiling upon their glassy surfaces. Each casket appeared latched at the side by a metal plate and had a patch of thickly welded iron at the center. Above each coffin hung precariously an iron weight.
Each catafalque stood opposite the other, in a circle of six with three to a semicircle. Augustine crept to the center of the gathering and came before a small pedestal, upon which lay a lever connected to an intricate pulley system that included the devices used to suspend each weight. He briefly regarded the walls, ornamented by dark velvet tapestries and burning oil lamps, and they seemed to close in on him -– the distance between each coffin head and the wall measured only five feet in length; the room measuring roughly thirty square feet.
He pulled the lever toward him and the weights dropped heavily upon the caskets, their force against the iron plates preventing the frames from bending. The top halves, connected to the bottom via a system of hinges and bars, fell beneath the weight and compressed the occupant inside. Painful cries wrenched forth and blood poured into a pipe system that led from the base of each casket to a table where wooden casks sat heavily. He reversed the lever and the weights returned to the ceiling, but then pulled it forward again and they dropped once more. He repeated the action until the screams ceased and the casks filled.
* * * *
He called for a group of swarthy wretches, minions of the night summoned by cryptic words of dark scripture, and they entered from an antechamber veiled with gauzy red cloth. Their diminutive bodies crept about roguishly as skulkers do, and their long devil-tails swung violently while greedy fingers grasped clumsily about the casks and mutilated bodies. They took the cadavers to a gruesome butchery and the blood to an icebox purposed for chilling.
Augustine pulled his cowl back and dark black locks fell about his pale and fragile face. He flashed a smile and revealed a pair of glistening white fangs. The devil-spawns labored, and as a cask passed by, he took his finger along its bloody edge and then ran it across his tongue.
“Ichor Falls… the blood of gods serves the children of the night well.” He cackled.