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The Old Man Who Turned the Moon Black by BloodySpaghetti

When Thabei took his nine-year-old daughter, Cythera, to a walk on the beach he had not imagined he would cause such a chain reaction of events that would result in the blackening of the moon itself.  When Thabei took his daughter to a hike on the beach, all he had in mind was making his child happy; after all, he hadn’t seen her for almost a week. Thabei was a busy merchant who could not afford to spend much time with his family, however, whenever he had the chance to be with them, he tried being the best husband and father he could be.

On that rather usual weekend morning, the merchant woke up just before dawn; he washed his face and stared at the mirror, a rare commodity for a commoner in his home country. He then looked out of his window to catch the sun beginning to rise and rushed to his daughter’s room. Once there, he shook her out of her sleep and told her to look at the window. The barely awake child lazily rose out of her bed and stared at the window, mesmerized by the sight before her eyes she began smiling, noting how beautiful it is outside.

After watching the sunrise, Thabei fixed the both of them breakfast and once they were done eating, he told his child to get dressed as he had planned to take her to the beach on horseback. The child got so excited she started screaming while jumping around her father as if she’d gotten a birthday present. Thabei had to hush Cythera so she wouldn’t wake up her mother. Once she managed to calm her excitement, the girl rushed to her room and wore her white silk dress, she ran back to her father’s room only to find out he was already waiting, outside, seated atop his trusty stallion.

The ride was short, about half an hour, after which the father and his beloved daughter reached a natural, untouched beach. Once Thabei took Cythera off the horse and placed her feet on the ground, she looked around, and her eyes widened with excitement, she whispered at Thabei that the beach was beautiful.

On one side of the beach, danced the clear ocean, the waves came and went calmly, as if they moved to the rhythm of the royal orchestra, waltzing their way towards the sand and back into the depths that were sharing an eternal kiss with the horizon. On the other side of the beach line, stood the mighty mount Bayagon, riddled with various cavern entrances that emanated refreshing breezes from within them. Some openings whistled as the wind came through them and as it left them, while other caverns were utterly silent.

That whole part of the beach line was completely silent; there were no people around, even though it was not too far away from the capital city of the country. Strangely, there were no animals in this strip of sand, nor on that side of the Bayagon. Some people had told a myth about a beast known as the Liursoa. These storytellers would describe the beast as a terrifying hell spawn built like a large black bear, with a lion’s head matching in size with a set of upper fangs so large they wouldn’t fit in the beast's mouth. The stories would also say how the beast possessed a scorpion like tail with a venomous stinger at its end. Thabei did not believe such stories; he was not a man to believe in the existence of monsters. He was also very skeptical of the gods his kin had always believed in, but he would never voice his opinions on the matter.

Cythera began running around on the sand, she eventually outpaced her father and ran passed a cavern from which a sweet sent came out of. Passing the opening by a few steps, a breeze blew out of the opening and the sweet scent had filled the young girl’s nostrils. She turned herself backwards and stood in front of the opening, sniffing the air coming out of it. She looked at her father, who was slowly walking with his stallion, not too far behind and motioned him to come into the cavern after her.

Thabei, who trusted Cythera not to get too far away into the cavern without him, kept his slow pace as he walked towards the opening into which his child had disappeared. Inside the cavern, Cythera was awestruck by what she had noticed, Speleothems of various sizes decorating both the floor and ceiling of the cavern. Cythera danced her way, gently, between them, touching some, while simply looking at others.

The sweet scent that had brought her in there had gotten stronger with each step she took deeper into the cavern, until she heard the sound of bubbling liquid. She began looking for the source of the sound and after a few short moments, Cythera found herself staring at an opening in the wall of the cavern in which a murky liquid substance was bubbling, emanating that same sweet scent she had noticed at the entrance to the cave.

Thabei was nearing the entrance of the cavern when he heard a child scream, his child’s scream. It was so loud it pierced his ears. Panic set in. He commanded his horse to stand still and ran as quickly as he could into the cavern, screaming out to his child, all he could hear was anguished whimpering, he had feared for the worst. Eventually, after moments of searching, moments that felt eons, he had found her. Cythera was lying on the cavern floor, sobbing for her father, softly, painfully. A sticky black liquid covered the entirety of her left arm, parts of her face and her upper torso. Her tiny, shivering body reeked of burning flesh. Thabei grabbed a hold of his child and began carrying her towards the entrance to the cavern, he stopped dead in his tracks when he heard a hoarse voice tell him that Cythera was going to die soon. He turned his head slowly to the side to see a cloaked old man standing in a passage entrance high above the space Thabei and Cythera were in. Thabei had murder in his eyes, but he chose to ignore the old man and his child medical help as fast as it was possible.

By the time Thabei had gotten home with Cythera the burnt side of her body was bright red and swollen, she was shaking, whimpering softly, with tears streaming down her face. Her body smelled like a disgusting combination of pork, charcoal and copper, it was utterly putrid, even to the father who loved his daughter so dearly, he was ashamed to cover his face in her presence.  The doctors were called in, and soon enough she was treated by the best physician in the vicinity. The doctor noted that while he does not know of the substance that was on her skin, the burns did not seem to bad, and while she will be forced to lived with scars, she will survive the ordeal. Thabei and Magara, his wife, were overjoyed by the news of their daughter not being in a danger of death's cold grip.

Three days after Cythera's accident, she was covered in blood red blisters all over her body. She was unable to make as much as a move without crying in immense pain. She was burning with fever. Thabei and Magara worried sick about the safety of their child, but the thing that scared them the most was how Cythera spoke about seeing human-beasts shrouded in smoke running around her room, screeching at her. Exposing their dagger like teeth at her, threatening her with things neither Thabei nor Magara even thought she'd know the names for. Whenever she would scream, her parents knew she saw them, the human-beasts.

Doctors were called in, but there was no answer, no one seemed to know of a cure for the girls condition, or even what it was.

Thabei began to question his philosophy regarding monsters, he began to believe demons were after his daughter, tormenting her mentally and physically destroying her little, fragile body.

By the fifth day after the accident, Cythera's body smelled like a decaying corpse, and she looked like one too. the blisters on her skin had become purple and blue in color, some of them burst, causing her to scream in inhuman agony. Her mind, it wasn't anymore. She could not speak, she could not reason, any movement around her made her shriek and thrash around in her bed, whenever she moved, her broken body forced her back down, her damaged skin could not handle her movements and it broke under the pressure, constantly cracking and breaking, she was constantly bleeding. Cythera was leaking out, blood drop by blood drop.

Magara fell into an endless crying fit, she would cry and moan at Cythera's bedside for hours, begging her beloved child to recover. By the seventh day, Thabei could not handle the sight of his daughter decaying in front of him and his wife breaking apart. He thought about the source of all of his sorrow, saddled his horse and rode it to that same beach on the side of the Bayagon. He remembered the old man in the cave, and his heart grew hot with anger, his soul yearned for vengeance.

Thabei sought out the cavern opening with the sweet smell coming out of it, he marched into the cavern with purpose, but was stopped in his tracks when he went head first into a smokescreen with sweet scent to it. Thabei began calling out for the old man, but no sound came back, he kept screaming and hitting the Speleothems around him with his fists, a cold breeze of fresh air had swept away the smokescreen and Thabei fell to his hindside when he saw what his leg was resting on, a human skull.

The sound of moaning began to fill his ears, Thabei called out, but the moaning just kept ringing in his ears. The merchant quickly got back to his feet, his heart racing with fear, he took a step back.

Another step back.

A cracking sound startled him, something sharp was poking at the sole of his shoe, he looked down.

A bone.

Before Thabei could react, the moaning sound had gotten louder, closer, it was coming from above him. The merchant slowly raised his gaze, anticipating the worst. He wasn't prepared for the what he had seen when his eyes met the ceiling.

Men, women and children; stuck to the ceiling.

Mutilated.

Some were missing limbs, others were missing patches of skin or limbs. Some had their bowels hanging from within them, one even had a part of his brain hanging out of his head. They were all alive. Somehow, living through that unearthly torment. Moaning, crying, begging for release from the pain.

Thabei fell to the ground, his heart raced like never before, his mouth was open, but he could not even bring himself to scream. All he could do was slowly crawl away, not breaking eye contact with the sight above him. The corpses just kept growing in number, each more mutilated, more terrifying than the last. Thabei kept on crawling with an unbroken focus on the horrors above him until he felt something sticky make contact with his back. He reached with his hand to find what it was and felt fur. He kept on dragging his hand on the fur like surface behind him until he felt himself touch the sticky substance again. Thabei slowly moved his hand towards his face, carefully breaking his gaze away from the hell that was hanging above him, as the moaning and the crying slowly subsided. Thabei stared at his hand, a warm crimson liquid had adorned it.

Thabei shot back up to his feet and slowly turned around to find out what was the source of this liquid of life, unbreaking his stare from his hand. His eyes widened in astonishment as he saw the prone, cold body of a bearlike creature with a lions head with gigantic fangs bulging out of it's wide open jaw, there was a large hole in the side of the beast, exposing an empty rib cage. Liursoa, the legendary beast that presumably could kill anything, was dead on the floor, in front of a deeply confused and utterly terrorized merchant.

Thabei could hear his heartbeat rising even more, he dropped his bloodstained hand down and began running out of the cavern as fast as he could. If something could kill a legendary beast and live a hole like that in it, Thabei did not want to be around that thing. He kept on running and running until he saw the entrance to the cavern.

Then he stopped.

Suddenly.

Almost falling face first onto the ground.

He stopped when he saw the old man sitting next to the entrance, the old man's appearance was shifting between that of a cloaked man and the appearance of Selevs, the god of the oceans, the god his people respected the most. The old man's appearance shifted in the eyes of Thabei between that of a cloaked old man and a leathery creature with tendrils sticking out of its head and covering the entirety of its body, with the exception of its bright blue face, in swirling motion.

Thabei stared at the men for a few moments, took a deep breath and forced himself to run once more, outside of the cavern. The old man did not budge.

Thabei was at this point sure that the old man was some sort of warlock and rode on his horse as fast as he could home to try and warn his people from the threat that he had come to discover.

By the time Thabei had reached his town, he found out that his daughter had passed away. The merchant began crying, and quickly enough his cries turned into primal screams of agony and wrath.

Thabei took the corpse of his child, Cythera and took her all over his home town, parading her as a victim of the old man's dark ways. Thabei displayed the already decaying corpse of Cythera as a way to rally his towns folk against the old man. In the span of a few hours, the wrathful and mournful merchant had gathered a mass of hundreds of people to follow him.

The mob followed the merchant out of the town and into the beach, and eventually into the cavern. The old man was still sitting in the same spot he was sitting at hours before, once he noticed the approaching crowd. He stood up and offered his arms in surrender. Thabei, being unable to take a hold of the old man himself, order the folk to take him back to town, and so they did, but only after some of the men looked around the cavern to confirm what Thabei had told them about. They found the Liursoa corpse and multiple human bones and skeletons, numbering in the thousands. They dragged the old man back to their town, but no one was brave enough to mock, spit on or hit the old man, they all feared his retaliation. Once in the center of the town, they forced the old man to sit down, and Thabei proclaimed that the old man is due to be burned alive and his remains to be eaten as was the ancient costume of their people for those who had committed witchcraft.

There were soldiers in the town who tried stopping Thabei's plan, but they were held down by the townsfolk, Thabei himself offered his head to the soldiers if the king desired to kill him, after the punishment of the old man.

The ruckus was broken by the old man standing up on his two feet, removing his old, ragged cloak revealing an impressive physique for a man of his advanced age. All of the people around him began to back away as he did. The old man took a deep breath, cleared his through and began speaking in a clear local tongue.

"Behold, your rightful king, Aythideos, founder of the Tazekidis dynasty and of this civilization. I am the man who murdered my brother and sent my dear friends to death decades ago, I am the man who faced unstoppable beasts and survived the encounters, I am the man who has brought on peace and carnage. I am the man who had been to hell and back. I am the man who lived for decades on the flesh of men, women, and children, I am a god amongst men."

The towns folk when quiet, unsure of how to respond, awestruck by the old man's thunderous voice and undeniable charisma, whispers began filling the crowd, something saying he was a delusional warlock, others wondering about the possibility of him being the old missing king.

After a long pause, the old man smiled, and said, "I am also the man that accepts my death here and now, I shall finally reunite with my friends and family in the afterlife."

His smiled widened as he went on to say, "Heed my warnings, if you do consume my flash as your barbarous ancestors would, I will be the death of you all, for I am Aythideos Tazekidis, the builder and destroyer of worlds!"

The old man set down and crossed his legs, Thabei called out for him to be set on fire and so the old man was doused in a flammable liquid and set on fire.

As his flesh burned away, the old man did not scream nor did he budge from his place, some people whispered of how he is smiling in the face of death while they watched him burn.

The whole town kept watching as the old man's body turned bright red and putrid smell came out of the makeshift pyre, men, women, and children all watched as the old man's body turned from red to a blistering mass of yellow and black.

When the sound of the old man's bones cracking due to the heat became frequent, the fire was put out and the remnants of his flesh were shared by Thabei and all the townsfolk who desired to free the world from the old man along with Thabei.

By the time the moon took over from the sun as master of the skies, a second pyre was set, one for Cythera. The local people preferred cremation over burial and as Thabei looked at the burning rotten corpse of his daughter, he had noticed the moon turn black.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three