Tales of Darkness - The Red Hand

I am aware that my present residence within this dank and rather musty home for less upstanding folk of the holds chips away at the overall credibility of my narrative. Notwithstanding my criminal heritage and the deeds that have ultimately brought me hither, I do need to reveal the appalling circumstances that led to my voluntary confinement. I do not expect that the guard will believe me, however I fear that, left unchecked, the malignity that forms in the north will pose a serious threat to our province's safety.

 

It was on the 25th of Sun's Dusk, 4E203, two years after the Dragon Crisis, that my fellow Gerion and I made a trip to the city of Solitude. As is customary among our kind, we didn't intend on staying long. Just long enough to steal from the rich that which we needed to survive and quickly leave. Ideally unnoticed. The two of us had always been bandits. As such, we had had a long history of robbing and raiding caravans and unheeding rustics on the small farmsteads around Skyrim. To our dismay, someone who we ambushed in the past had apparently notified the Imperial Guard and gave them an elaborate enough description of our likenesses. So much so that the authorities issued a bounty on our heads by perusal of several pamphlets bearing our features. We were oblivious to the actions that had been taken against us, so inadvertent as we were, we barged right into the lion's mouth.

 

When we approached the city gates, the sleepy-eyed guardsmen awoke from their daydreams and were quick to draw swords. At this point, we knew we slipped up. Our identities now forever engraved in criminal history as long as we had not been caught. In this precarious situation we swiftly stole two steeds from the neighbouring stables and rode off into the sunset to flee from imminent incarceration.

 

Gerion suggested to me we head north to the Sea of Ghosts. He told me that, a couple years prior before meeting me, he had discovered a small isle just off the coast with a cave on it that should prove as a sufficient enough shelter. At least until the commotion surrounding me and Gerion subsided somewhat and not every ragged indigent would recognize us on the roads. I acquiesced and so we traversed the distance betwixt Solitude and the coast in but half an evening's time, riding across the open landscape of the hold without further incident.

 

By dusk we arrived at the glimmering sea that reflected the last rays of the incandescent sun. In the twilight, Gerion and I guided our horses to the shore. We knew that our quadrupedal beasts would probably die of hypothermia when we would make them swim all the way to the small isle. But then it was rather them than us. The sea was misty and clouded and we couldn't peek far into the distance. Regardless, we entered the water perched on our saddles.

 

The animals swam for a while until at last, the edge of a land formation began to emerge from amidst the white-greyish shades that hung aggravatingly over the water's surface. But just about a hundred meters or so before we could reach it, the horses suddenly and without reason refused to comply, eventually throwing us off and into the icy, black waters. We had no explanation for that and likewise, no time to worry about any of this. So the last bit we had to travel by ourselves. Briefly I asked myself just how we would get back to the mainland now. In a fortunate turn of events, I curiously espied a stranded boat at the precipice of a rocky protrusion near the isle. I ignored the fact that this meant someone else had also landed here before and only rejoiced that we won't be completely shipwrecked after all.

 

So after much deliberation we landed on said island. With much anxiety did we soon notice though that a queer drumming and chanting became audible the further we went to the apparent cave Gerion had told me about. There was somebody here after all, it seemed. Notwithstanding the chilling gusts and frigid ground, coated in ice and snow, our drenched clothing slowly solidifying from the harsh climate, we were both relieved as well as utterly perplexed when we witnessed something that looked like a ritual of sorts.

 

The two of us beheld with palpable fear about fifteen largely undressed men and women draped in only a loincloth, feverishly dancing and chanting around a bonfire in the center of this unhallowed procession. Inside the fire stood a dilapidated stone pillar mounted on which was a leering idol of an entity hitherto unknown to us. Indescribable were its features chiseled into the black rock it was made from. Likewise, the unsightly miscreants that hopped and sprung so furtively around the warm radiance were almost equally hard to picture. They were more than just aesthetically challenged, to say the least, and bore red and white tribal markings all over their crooked bodies. They audibly sung and hummed in a language alien to Gerion and me but we inferred this might be an incantation of some capacity.

 

We hesitated at this hideous blasphemy. Had we haphazardly stumbled upon a cult of some proportion, reveringly praying and chanting to a forgotten deity, perhaps? Nonetheless, we needed shelter and warmth. The sparkling flames looked too inviting and comforting despite the ugly ceremony at hand. So we made the mistake of stepping out of the shadows to try to reason with these obscure people. At once, all grew silent. The drums that had been fervently operated before were mute, the singing and chanting died off and all participants of this invocation stood still, circumjacent to their otherworldly fetish among the crackling fire.

 

Without warning, six of them rushed us, hands outstretched. They grabbed and pulled us away before we even had the chance to react. The cultists that got a hold of me reeked with pungent malodorousness reminiscent of iron, blood and foetor. They dragged Gerion and me into the cave he had told me about earlier, subsequently throwing us to the cold, moist ground. Then they did their utmost to disarm us and tossed the now obsolete weaponry into a corner in the damp cavern.

 

Before us now loomed the figure I suspected to be the high priest or leader of what I assumed to be a daemoniac cult. I stared into his shadowy visage, utterly battered and riddled with scars across its entire surface. The detestable old man motioned two of his underlings to hold Gerion, his eyes widening in terrible anticipation. He then spoke a verse or phrase in a twisted tongue I could not recall and to my bafflement sliced the skin of his palm with a crude knife resulting in a deep cut. The man proceeded to clap his hands together and smear the liquid until all was sufficiently covered. Then he gazed over to my friend.

 

At once, the red hand was thrust into Gerion's face and held there as alien utterances of portentous quality reverberated through the cavernous walls of this forsaken place that did not know sanctity. In another instant, the hand retracted from my partner in crime and he began wailing in pain until blood started to rinse in quaint streams from his pores. Flailing skin flew around me as Gerion burst from the inside, revealing not only his naked flesh. A hazy, murky figure emerged from his body, a being of deep red fumes and sanguinary drippings. It was strangely ethereal, ghostly and wraith-like. The creature tore through Gerion's meat and turned to then face me.

 

A ghastly bloodied claw reached out to me and touched my chest as it gazed into my very soul, I believe. Searing pain coursed through my veins as I managed to contain an agonized scream. Shortly after, all hell broke loose. The apparition swiftly dashed out the cave's aperture and vanished into the frigid gusts. Horrified screaming and shouting could be heard from outside, drawing the attention of the high priest and his associates. They left me where I was to assess the situation beyond the entryway.

 

I waited a few seconds before getting up myself. I didn't want to draw unwanted attention. I stepped out of the vault and witnessed as several cultists got gutted and seemingly eaten alive by the bloodwraith that had just been born from beneath the pits of damnation and purgatory.

 

Amidst all the chaos I fled to the shore whence the boat lay and with it, managed to make my way to the province of Skyrim again. I ventured forth to the City of Solitude in which I was quickly persecuted. But I didn't fear containment. The guardsmen stuck me into the cell I am now sitting in. I think I'm safe here.

 

From that night I retain only my grueling memories and the print of the red hand that the thing left on my chest. It still burns ardently from time to time. On moonless nights, when Secunda and Masser retreat into their starry vault and only the howl of what had once been my friend echoes among the darkness.

 

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Replies

  • Sorry I got to reading  this way late, work/family/site management & finding precious time for my hobbies eats up so much of my time. But wow, you have quite a way with words and they've weaved quite a dark tale. I'm left of course wondering what manner of diety the cultists were praying too and what kind of hell spawn did they tear out from that poor man's body. 

    • Hey Curse! :D

      Glad you like my tale. If you want to know to what things this tale is in connection to I'd suggest reading 'Shape Your Flesh'. Shape Your Flesh ties in with The Red Hand and concerns itself with the origins of that strange cult and the bloody ghost.

      Moreover, when I wrote this story I subsequently created a bestiary entry for that creature. I called it the Bloodwraith and the entry can be viewed here.

      The contents of the link are best viewed within the Fandom App because the formatting is always jumbled on the desktop site. 

      If such bestiary entries are desired, tell me in what manner and I'll release them here also.

      Thanks again for your kind words. It means a lot. :D

  • Loving this story. I will have to find time to sit down and read everything you’ve posted. I have quite the backlog of excellent content to include yours to catch up witb.

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