Sunday, February 1, 2015

Drums in The Night (excerpt written by Shar Auvryndar, from Magics and Mysteries of The New World, vol. 5, written by Jerit McCaugh)

Drums, drums in the night. When my comrade Jerit McCaugh invited me to assist him in researching and categorizing the magics of this new world of his, he advised me to dress and pack for warm environs. By the gods, he was right! Here, in this lush, steamy jungle on what's been called The Dark Continent, five years have passed as we ingratiated ourselves into this tribe of dark skinned humans called the M'Buatu. The tribe numbered in the high twenties and on this night, they would be contacting the lower levels of reality to go to war.
 Countless sparks filled the night sky over the tribe, encircling a roaring bonfire. A throbbing drumbeat assisted the undulations of the men and women, dancing around in the living heat. Sweat glistened off writhing bodies, dancing around the flames. I look past Jerit, clad like a native in naught but a loincloth, to see the shaman step out of his but. Short, wizened, his face and drizzled hair were covered in cracked, flaky ash. In short, sturdy steps, he approached the circle, who made a space for him. Taking a shallow bowl from one of his acolytes, he took a deep sip, then offered the bowl to the next in line, Jerit. The McCaugh took a sip, winced as he swallowed and handed the bowl over to me. I took a healthy swig and handed off the bowl to the next.
 I choke down the putrid swill, fighting back a wave of nausea. Once the liquid was swallowed, the effects took hold. Colors exploded in my ears, smells assaulted my eyes. I look over at Jerit, to see him holding himself, rocking back and forth, staring wide-eyed into the roaring flames and whispering to himself. Voices echoing in my ears, I turn to look at the shaman, in time to see him shake what looked like a dead chicken at the fire and then blows a handful of powder into it.
 Two nights ago the chieftain and the shaman decided the M'Buatu would go to war with a neighboring tribe of humans, and that Jerit and I could observe, and even participate in the summoning, which was obviously going on now. The drumming began beating faster, the chanting came faster and louder.
 As a noble drow, I am quite familiar with summonings. My sisters of my race have turned summoning into a true art form and have become masters of it. And yet this tribe of humans were a match for any drow I have seen.
 My vision began to swim, whether from the potion I drank, the heat of the roaring flames, from the beating rhythms of the drums or a combination of the three. Sparks rose and danced in the air above the fire; the McCaugh, eyes closed, head shaking, muttering to himself; a tear forms in the blaze... and out steps a thing...
 Over six feet tall, and dressed in strange garb, it looked about the assembled tribe. As its gaze passed over me, the blood drained from my face. Its face was pure white, no eyes, a mere knob of a nose. Its only definable feature was its maw. Thin black lips and a mouthful on jagged teeth completed its visage.
 The shaman dropped to his knees, imploring the creature to aid them in the upcoming assault. I looked to my comrade, only to find Jerit on his hands and knees, still shaking his head, a glazed look in his eyes. As I helped him to his feet, I cast my gaze around the tribe and saw that Jerit was not the only one afflicted. There were several men and women wailing and gnashing their teeth. My keen ears were able to detect what the McCaugh was uttering, a nursery rhyme from his youth:

   Do you hear the whisper men?
The whisper men are near
  Once you hear the whisper men
 Then turn away your ear
   Do not hear the whisper men
     Whatever else you do
For once you've heard the whisper men
         They'll stop...
   And look at you

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