In memory of Mr. Howard Phillip Lovecraft.
You are Providence indeed, sir.
And a happy Halloween to you all!
"There now ensued a series of incidents which transported me to the opposite extremes of ecstasy and horror; incidents which I tremble to recall and dare not seek to interpret."
- H.P. Lovecraft,The Crawling Chaos
"It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful."
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." ... "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
- H.P. Lovecraft,The Call of Cthulhu
Like so many great and terrible things that happen on this little island other wise known as reality, the rupture in the multiverse began with a series of discoveries.
Jump city was neither a desolate nor forgotten place. It was like a young antithesis of Gotham: full of light and youth and purity and joy. And no small amount of this came from the city's defenders, the Teen Titans. But there was one among their number who far more animated, with the taint of the Lower Planes in her blood. She needs no introductions; she is Raven, and that is all. But it came to pass, as it does so often in the Machiavellian twisting of the spider web that is fate, that Raven met one of her kindred; a tanar'ri, the Fire Demon Kresk.
And Kresk took the young half-demon under his tattered wings, even after Raven's vow to never associate with her species if she didn't need to. And the Fire Demon taught her things, terrible things, wonderful things, and dragged her with the slightest of ease into a world of black and slimy arcane secrets, old and potent magics whispered of by ignorant mortals who had no grasp of the magnitude of the threats around them. And it was with a nye-paternal glee that the Fire Demon brought his apprentice into the domain of life magic, of manipulating the forces of existence and the animation of entropic shells; Kresk began to teach Raven the art of Necromancy.
And where better to teach the young cambion in the arts of the darkest college of magic than its home and breeding ground, the fountain of its most common and horrid practitioners, than a graveyard? Between the outskirts and the heart of the city, like a median ring of Hell, a forgotten grotto of tombstones and markers lay. On this particular night, the sky was clear and the stars lost to city lights, blotted out by cold intelligence and electricity. But in the graveyard, fog crawled in, slithering and groping the moist earth and dead rock. It had crept from the sky, baring a foul scent of decay and stale water. The tombstones were of a more elder variety, rounded standards and obelisks, more original and solemn than the newer models. And they were old, oh to be sure they were old. The rock cracked and chipped, obscuring the forgotten names that hovered above ill grass and hallow flowers. Moss crawled into the splinters and openings, an infection from the rape of time. Its dark green was mixed with scabs of brown and black mud. Trees, gnarled and twisted, sprang from the ground and fissured the evening strata. A high fence surrounded the plot, ebon iron and spikes pulling the skin off any who would disturb the corpses of this place. The gates were watched by a lone guardhouse, but that was often abandoned, and it did not stop memories and sins. Or demons of any kind, for that matter.
Kresk adored the graveyard. He said that it was one of the few of its kind in the world. The 'creepy' kind, that is. He remembered when graveyards were reviled as cursed gardens, where death hanged and would lash out at any fool idiotic enough to linger about. Now they were hallowed places, mattresses for the dearly departed, that had a feeling of serenity and rest and hope around them. It disgusted the demon, although he did enjoy the concept of further desecrating a holy place for his sheer amusement. But no, the best graveyards were the old kind, with darkness and owls and night sounds and shadows wavering too long before they departed.
Yes, it was here that the Fire Demon had brought Raven to raise a corpse from the ground, unknowing of the consequences it would bring. Like a predator, Kresk stalked between the tombstones, muttering what were no doubt ancient words of terrible power.
"Wait! I think I got something- (Sniff) Oh, never mind." Kresk was tracking the scent of the graves, the moment of death, to find a suitable undead to be raised. Behind him, Raven stalked, folded in her cloak. The graveyard had its own charm, to be sure. But she didn't see why Kresk had to drag her out here to summon a zombie or a skeleton or such; she could just do it back at home with a mere chicken or cat body. But no, Kresk insisted on proper Necromancy. Up ahead, she could hear him muttering, "Just one shallow unmarked grave, I DESERVE one shallow unmarked grave. Gods, if you can hear me, I want a shallow unmarked grave." Suddenly, the Fire Demon stopped. He lifted up his hand and Raven halted. Kresk got on all fours and sniffed the ground like a starved predator, keeping his face straight to the dirt until he reached a small tombstone. Kresk laughed before he shouted, "Yes! Got one! Kid, come over here!"
"Yeah?" Raven replied as she stood next to Kresk. "Feast your eyes on this!" the Fire Demon proclaimed, pointing at the tombstone. It was a tiny rock, a pebble among the boulders. Its sides were rounded and uneven. Vines grew up and strangled the surface, moss smothering space. Scratched on as a faux title was the name 'Elizabeth'. No last name was given. The years given were 1956-1965; the child was only nine years old at her death. Raven was in shock, "You want me to raise a child?"
"Oh no, not just an undead child. Tell me, have you ever heard of a slaymate?"
"No. Should I have?"
"Probably not. Slaymates are a special kind of lesser undead, raised only from dead children who died because of the negligence of a parent or guardian. They felt betrayed at the time of their death, and so seek vengeance against the living. Necromancers sometimes take them as familiars due to a very potent aura they have that strengthens magic. And I think that this grave has the potential for a slaymate. What do you say?"
"You can't be serious. You expect me to perform necromancy to raise an undead little girl with abandonment issues just out of practice?"
"Yes, quite naturally. I fail to see the problem here. Think of it this way; she died too young, now we're giving her a second shot. She'll just have to settle for being a walking bag of decay seeking vengeance in her un-life."
"You're gonna make me beg, aren't you? Alright, what if I promise to resolve whatever freaky abandonment issues she has after you raise her, the old fashioned way?"
"Your old fashioned way, or THE old fashioned way?"
"Is there any way BUT mine?"
"So you're going to rip off her head, burn the remains, keep the skull, and throw the ashes into a swift moving river?"
Kresk huffed, "Fine, I'll do it your way. I'll go track down the source of trouble and 'talk' about it until she's at 'peace'. My way's more fun, though. I needed a new skull…" There was a moment of silence as Raven contemplated her choices before she said, "Fine. But you better live up to your end."
"Of course, of course. Now, let's get started! I have the bone and the candle right here!" Kresk pulled out the bone of something (or someone) and a black candle. Igniting his thumb, the Fire Demon lit the candle and placed it on the tombstone. "And you know the rest…" Kresk briskly ordered. Raven summoned a needle and pricked her finger. The drop of blood splattered on the bone, Raven gently placing the fillet on the grave next to the candle. She waved her hands over the tombstone, pouring magic into the material components, the earth, and the corpse. As she did so, Raven recited ancient words in Draconic, using the venerable tongue to aid her success.
Life began to pour into the cadaver in the coffin, Raven could feel it. Kresk, perched on a nearby obelisk like some malformed gargoyle, watched in eager anticipation. The soon to be slaymate crawled towards the surface, but lazily. She had been abandoned, true, but it was by accident. Her mother was watching her little brother and…and…it was all kind of a blur after that. All she remembered was that now she was dead. Had she been…a ghost earlier? Either way, she had made her peace already. There was no need to withdraw from the womb of Gaia. And so, the slaymate merely descended.
But something was still forcing her forward, some old spell that demanded she try and take revenge, seek petty arguments with the living. The slaymate pressed her will against Raven's foul necromancy, and then she broke free. Just like that, she was a body again, and her soul drifted through the Astral Plane to the afterlife again.
But on the surface, the spell backfired. And for daring to try and defy the natural order, the laws of necromancy backlashed on Raven. The candle blew out with a gust, leaving a wispy snake of smoke. The bone floated in the air, green cracks of light showing over it. It exploded, sending out a force wave to its controller. A wave of green energy hit Raven full on, knocking her back on to her feet. Kresk immediately leaped to aid, crouching next to the now unconscious Raven. And he could smell something on her, and rejoiced a little bit, for it was a familiar scent; it was the odor of taint.
Raven limply laid in the mist, sprawled on the ground, her head against a tombstone of yore. There was a glitch in her breath, a strain in her lungs; her breaths were shallow and forced, asthma of the necromancy. Kresk poked her with one of his claws, calling out, "Kid? Kid? Wake up. Come on. I know you're not dead. If you were dead I would have seen it. Now wake up!" He ended his last command with a sharp point of one of his talon. At this last statement, Raven awoke with what could best be called a snarl. Not a remark, an actual guttural imitation of bestial annoyance. She managed to gasp out, "What is it?" to the Fire Demon.
"Yikes, you woke up foul! You alright?"
"I was until you woke me up. What happened with the slaymate? (Gasp) And what's wrong with my breathing?"
"The spell failed. The kid put her will against yours and won. You got a backwash of the arcane variety, I suspect. And that means you've entered into the estate of evil! You got your first trace of taint!"
"It's a loose term that refers to the side-effects and mutations you may experience when you use evil magic or such. I've got plenty of signs here. See?" Kresk pulled up one of the sleeves of his rope with a swift and singular motion. Raven was glad that Fire Demon kept his skin covered; it was hideous. The skin itself was pocked and leathery, pale as a fish and just as hairless. Kresk didn't seem to have the basic anatomy of a humanoid arm. It really looked more like an assimilation of fat, muscle, bones, and what might be tumors all jumbled into one freakish paw. Raven swore she saw two or three lumps move under the demon's skin. Even with this, there were moles and boils infrequently bubbling forth. Kresk started to point to some of the lumps and twisted bone, naming each incident that caused its birth, "Let's see. This one's from hunting unicorns, ah, this one is burning down an orphanage. The big one over here is from themind rape spell I used (great Enchantment, by the way; can't go wrong), this one…I think it was a Bob Dylan concert. The details are kind of hazy there… And this little adorable fellow is from murdering a nun in her sleep! I was bored."
"Well how (Gasp) does this relate (Gasp) to me?"
"I imagine that asthma and your attitude are reflections of your taint. Did I forget to mention you go a little insane with taint? So far, I have schizophrenia, pyromania, bestiality, sociopath, and I may or may not have several other dementias and repressed memories. It gives me something to look forward to on my birthday, you know."
"Isn't magic (Gasp) a matter of perspective?"
"Most of the time, yes. But there are just some spells that are evil, and some that are good. Think of it this way; when I cast a fireball, I'm generating fire, not water."
"Still, isn't it all (Gasp) dependent? What about (Gasp) intentions?"
"Can you think of any reason, beyond total self-satisfaction, to raise the dead?"
"(Gasp) Touché. How do I (Gasp) get rid of this?"
"Well, that would need healing magic beyond your expertise. And I can't do it because…well come on, do I look like I'm the kind of guy who kisses bruises? Don't worry, I'll find a way. We've got a few hours before the effects are permanent. Let's get moving." The Fire Demon stood up. Raven used her arms and moved upward as well. But the young mage hunched her shoulders and kept her face in a feral mask. The two mages walked through the fog back to the Tower, predators of the Abyssal kind.
Raven was impatiently counting the hours. Back at the Tower, the other Titans, who all seemed disturbingly human, were idling time in their jolly, mortal ways. The young cambion hungered for meat, for bloody muscle to fill her belly. Kresk had gone out, saying that there might be someone, or something in Sigil that could help. Raven prowled at the outskirt of the communal fire that was Friday night, patient and disturbed at the intrusion on her territory. Raven had garnered from Kresk that her mental curse was bestiality; to be like an animal, to think and feel like a creature of the wild, all with cold attitude of her half-demon self. Beast Boy had said something to her at one point while she was lapping up tea. She had snapped something at him in a raptor tongue that spoke volumes in his language of fauna.
Now, the cambion sat and waited for the Kresk to alert her. It seemed like days before the Fire Demon's voice rang in her ears, but it was really only a few hours. The demon growl proclaimed, "Kid, head to your room. I've got the answer to all your problems waiting." Raven, miffed that any other being had dared to intrude upon her nest, stalked off on feline heels to her abode, letting the humanoids in their shelter rest.
Raven found a further liking for her room with her bestiality. The darkness and warmth were reminiscent of a dragon cave or gryphon roost. Kresk stood on one side of Raven's room, a large box with holes for air at his side. Raven, quite literally, perched like a vulture on her bed. She wheezed, "Well (Gasp), what have you got? (Gasp)"
"I've found us a very special kind of pet. It's a special kind of monster bred specifically for removing taint. As you can imagine, it's called a Corruption Eater. Just a little trouble and you ought to be right as rain."
"I don't know. (Gasp) I've been thinking Kresk (Gasp). Maybe this disease (Gasp) can be a gift. You seem (Gasp) to use it all right."
"Kid, you're scratching your ear with your foot." Indeed, like any animal, Raven had shifted her torso to scratch the back of her ear with her bare foot. She realized this and promptly stopped. Kresk went on, "Now, I myself am not above the simple pleasures of a hoof-ear scratch, but enough is enough, don't you think? Besides, how long do you intend to keep wheezing like that?" Raven was rather annoyed with the asthma. She could just barely recite her mantras and spells before it began, but those were some of the shorter incantations. To falter on the longer, more potent charms was to risk existence itself. Raven begrudged, "Alright. Do what you must."
"This won't take long." Kresk said, opening the latch on the box. An absurd and disgusting creature greasily slinked from the box. It was humanoid enough; that is to say it had what looked like two arms and two legs. Here and there, scales large scales grew from the slimy, acid green skin. The feet ended in three talons, but on closer inspection it was seen that the arms were tentacles that ended in clubs with spikes on the ventral surface. A set of spines ran down the back ridge, which skipped the neck and went straight to the head. The cranium had a sloped head and two round, silver eyes. On the chin, two horns rested in defense. But the incredible thing was the mouth; the maw was wide and rubbery. When it opened, a set of needle like sharp teeth presented themselves like spears for battle. And the single most astonishing feature was yet to come. Smelling the air, the creature put forth an obscenely long tongue, nearly half the length of its body. It was a tentacle more than anything; it was covered in smaller mouth that looked like suckers.
The Corruption Eater placed its eyes on Raven and smelled the air around her. Before she could react, the monster was on her. Her arms were wrapped in its arm tentacles, not realizing that its prey had no desire to fight back. Then, its tongue began to circle around her head. Raven was able to cry out, "Hey! What's it doing?"
"Don't worry. This is just part of the process." Kresk reaffirmed. The tongue wrapped around Raven like a boa, and she felt her eyes lose sight andsomething touch her mouth and ears. With horror, the half-demon knew it was one of the suckers on the tongue. The Corruption Eater tightened its squeeze, and Raven felt somethingleave her. For a minute or two, the Corruption Eater sucked its delicious meal of taint before it loosened its grip and fell off of Raven. Despite the disgusting experience, the mage felt better for it. Her thoughts were clearer and more direct, more civilized. She breathed in deep, and a released with a sigh of gladness. "Ah, good to see you back on your feet." Kresk approved. And then, the Fire Demon saw the Corruption Eater staring at him with hungry eyes. Kresk warned, "Hey! Hey, back off pal! Just back off!"
Kresk put his hand front of him, claws poised to strike, but the Corruption Eater didn't care. It rushed the demon and tussled with his arm. The Fire Demon tried to claw it off or pull the fiend away, but its slippery hide made it difficult. The creature wrapped its tongue around Kresk's arm and began to suck and bloat itself. Kresk howled out in rage, "GET OFF OF ME, DAMN IT!" The monster paid no heed. Raven, seeing her tutor's predicament, grabbed the creature with a shadowy claw and threw the beast away quickly. The Corruption Eater crawled up a wall after such a violent rejection and into a vent. Kresk was now compulsively sobbing disturbingly clear tears of blood. He moaned out, "Don't look at me, I'm hideous! I'm deformed…MISSHAPENED!" He clutched his right hand. Raven, a healer once more said, "Here, let me see." The Fire Demon moved his paw to unveil his horrible perfection. His wrist was now clear of all skin infections. It was a sculpted balance of muscle with a little bit of elderly fat, and smooth as a baby's bottom. No tumors or warts or bones stained it. The demon still had his claws and calluses on his hand, but all other traces of foulness were gone. It was absolutely horrifying.
"Look what it did to me!" the Fire Demon cried. "Oh, my beautiful wickedness! All my beautiful wickedness! What a world, what a world!"
"Oh, it's not that bad…" Raven bemoaned. "LIES!" the Fire Demon screamed. "Shouldn't we be looking for the Corruption Eater? It could cause a lot of trouble by itself."
"Go on without me. I'm a FREAK!" Kresk roared. Raven only sighed and ran out of her room. She could hear the scuttling of the aberration down the halls. When she found it, the creature was pawing at a door like a famished pup. And Raven paused; for this was the door of a particular girl she had known. This was the entry to Tera's room. Kresk appeared a few moments later. He had wrapped his healed hand in one of Raven's cloaks, much to her discontent. But she was more worried about the hungry gleam in his eye. He asked, restraining himself, "Tell me, kiddo, what's behind that door?"
"That WAS Tera's room, when she lived here."
"Ah, so this is the Upper Room of the Blonde Judas, eh?"
"Yes, if you insist on calling her that…" There was a pause, where the only sound was the eager ministrations of the Corruption Eater. "Why is it doing that?" Raven asked, already knowing the answer in her heart. "Sometimes, an act of evil can taint a place as well as a person or thing. Say, betraying five of your friends to certain death for the promise of power?"
"But, she tried to redeem herself…"
"But not this place! Quickly girl, open the door. Let us see where the Last Supper truly happened!" Raven walked over and uneasily opened the room, clicking the code to undo the wedding bow digital lock. The door opened, the first sound to reverberate through the air in too long. It should have been like the graveyard, filled with decay and dirt and dust. But all it was only dry and cold, the bed untouched in requiem pain. The desert in the wallpaper was far more deserted than could be imagined, the lonely cacti and rocks mourning. The heart shaped box that Garfield had given the earthmover still lay in traitorous lachrymose. Kresk stepped in with anticipation. He closed his eyes, smiled, and wrapped his arms around himself. He inhaled and released a joyful sigh of pleasure and self-satisfaction as he giggled to himself, "Ah, do you feel it? Taint is in the air. It's mild, oh so mild, but it's there. Just enough to push a good ritual through the roof. Oh, yeah…"
"You want to perform a spell here?" Raven asked, but Kresk wasn't listening. The Fire Demon was counting the amount of open space by walking around the room with his hooves. Raven pleaded, "It just seems a little disr-"
"I see arcane guards! Yes, all in the corners of the room! And we could use these shelves for spare components! Ooh, and this mattress could be made into an altar with some spit and polish! Now, the wallpaper ruins the mood but that's nothing that a demon's touch can't fix…"
"I didn't know you took interior decorating." Raven said with a mocking smirk. She was mildly surprised when Kresk answered, "Eh, 317 came around and I was bored. Mortals only move so fast, don't you know." Raven only sighed again and queried, "So…you want to do a spell here?"
"Yeah, I'm thinking something along the Conjuration school, aren't you? Maybe some kind of greater demon or plague or some such. But that could be done anywhere. What we need here is something special, something…unique. I could pull out the Scrolls of Ahm, or maybe some pages from the Book of Mammon."
"I've read the Book of Mammon."
"Of course you have… Still, it has to be something good. What about the Scribings of Hrut? No, that'll never do. You only get the chance to summon something big AND possibly wipe out a city should things go south once every few decades. It has to be something fantastic, something cosmic, something…" At that moment, Kresk prostrated himself as his eyes glazed over in gleeful realization. He spoke in a monotone voice, "Child of mine, I'm going to be away for a while. Don't follow me or even try to scry on me. You may see me in your dreams. Do not enter this room. I'm going to have some lesser demons work on it." True to his word, Kresk summoned his familiar Nickis to his shoulder and commanded, "Nickis, get the cheapest and fastest labor you can find on the Abyss. I don't care if it's larvae and dretch, just do it and do it quick!" The quasit mockingly and melodramatically saluted his captain and squeaked out, "Yeas boess!" before he flew off.
"And where are you going, old demon?" Raven pondered. The Fire Demon, already leaving, turned around and smiled, "Over the mountains of the moon, and down the valley of shadow. Past the dark corners of the Earth, through Heaven and Inferno." And in a flash of fire, Kresk had disappeared.
It would be at least two weeks before Raven would see the Fire Demon once more. True to his word, the young mage often caught glimpses of red moving through her dreams like portals. Sometimes, she had nightmares of a gritty and grimy nature. One particular phantasm was running through what looked like an ancient tomb, spider webs covering the ancient vaulted ceiling. There was something behind her, she just knew it, but every time she turned around to fight or look at it, Raven found herself awake.
This nightmare played out like a story from a twisted oneiromancer's fairy tale. She went farther and farther into the depths of the cavernous sepulcher. At least two miles down (from what her dream self could gather), hieroglyphics on the walls showed a mosaic of primordial snake men and bird folk battling with amorphous darkness and flying barrels. But the peak of the dream was the finale. Raven found herself standing before a sarcophagus, but massive, twelve feet tall to be sure. The giant coffin was wrapped in chains and locked with bolts that could crush a man. And she knew, the young mage knew that whatever lied in that place was something old and black as sin and terrible…and hungry.
But Raven awoke. She was thankful that she would never know what lay in strange graves beneath the archaic womb of the world. And she blissfully believed that that was the end of the residents and dreams of the tomb. But that day, that day was only the beginning of her troubles with the contents of that coffin. For that was the day Kresk returned…
He came upon a midnight clear. Raven went to turn off the lights in the living room after a hard day, and he was standing there, invisible, in the center of the den. And in his hands, was a box. But oh, what a box; even from where she was standing, Raven could feel the years and malignancy coming off of the ebon cube. Darkness and terror crawled up the walls, trying to find a way to escape whatever greater madness lurked within. And standing like the head of the Crawling Chaos was Kresk, the oil and residue of the container pouring off of him.
Raven walked over to the Fire Demon. She couldn't really see the box that well through his claws, but it was obvious the aura had grown immensely stronger here. She asked, horror in her voice, "Uh, Kresk…What…What is that?" The demon, without moving any other part of his body, tilted his head so could he look at Raven. She wanted to scream when she looked into his eyes, for there had never been such a blank and maddened gaze of apathy and madness. In a hushed tone, he answered, "This girl…this is it. This is THE book. The book to end all books. What I hold here is the damnation of a thousand thousands beings, for what I hold here is the dread tome of Alhazred. This…is the NECRONOMICON!"
Raven was aghast. It couldn't be true: the greatest tome of dark sorcery, here? It just wasn't possible! Secrets lay within that box, secrets that no mortal or immortal, god or demi-god should ever read, should ever know. This was the ultimate tome of madness. Kresk muttered to Raven, "Meet me in the ritual room. I won't open the chest without you."
"Do you…do you have a spell to open it?"
"Child of mine, no book in the multiverse deserves more respect than this tome. I will open the box with utmost discrepancy and respect. Now, I need some dragon urine and a hammer to bust off these chains."
In a few moments, Raven was in what had been Tera's room. She had to say, she liked the new decorations. The walls had been painted black, with swirls and sigils painted red into it. The window was blotted out by a large, decrepit cabinet (locked) and several shelves with jars of arcane components and scrolls on the holdings. A chest was now in the corner of the room, also locked. Tera's bed had unfortunately not been converted into an altar, but the mattress and had been destroyed, now replaced with a large table of sorts. Chairs were next to the 'table', anxiously awaiting a student to sit and study in them.
Kresk entered at last. A foul smell followed him, doubtlessly the dragon urine. "Are we ready?" Raven asked. Kresk was only able to reply in a shiver and a nod. He set the chest on the table, and stood waiting with eager hands. Now Raven could see the true hideousness of the box. The design was of tentacles squirming, grasping, and slithering about to grasp any sane mortal and pull him into their maddening embrace. There was no lock; Hell had no discrepancies against willing visitors. The ebon stone gleamed with distorted light and maddened doom.
Kresk, oh so gently, pushed the lid open, moving the container to reveal its secrets. A pale, purple light emanated from inside, cast from fungi of unknown and questionable origins. Raven's heart was beating; Kresk's palms were sweating blood. The Fire Demon reached inside the box and pulled out a smaller package. A dead, sick brown covering of soft skin awaited with a single button hiding the thick tome. Kresk unlatched the eager key, emblazoned with a black triangle, and pulled out the tome.
And there it was: the Necronomicon. Chief among all mad and dubious wanderings through the sea of pages in the multiverse. The entire book was wrapped in the leather of some elder race's skin, colored by inhuman blood. On the cover, a six-pointed star in the middle of a circle was emblazoned in bone. The whole thing was latched with a simple clip, an innocent minute terror that stood guard against the horrors of the Far Realms of existence. The pages were brittle and yellow as the skin of sinners in their slumber at the night of perpetual torture that is the grave. On the back was a warning, penned in ancient and anti-deluvian letters, an alphabet written before the boundaries of reality had ever been set, had ever been conceived, before gods were even the hair of a notion in the alien and vast minds of horrible intelligences that ruled and thrashed in the chaos of primordial birth. All this was but the mere skin, the mere exoskeleton of the terrible glory that was the Necronomicon.
Kresk shuddered as he held it in his paws. He held it tight to his chest as his eyes rolled back in his head. He let out a pleased and tenor moan as his knees buckled and drool poured from his mouth. A tear of blood rolled down his cheek. Yet another rasping and ecstatic breath escaped, followed by another groaning. Raven asked, "What was that?" Kresk, with his eyes still closed only said, "I think I just had an evilgasm."
Kresk disappeared once more, but this time, into the depths of the room of ritual. He searched the foul Necronomicon, descending deeper and deeper into its madness, sinking into the letters and runes with glorious abandonment and unreason. His mind was twisted by the foul corruption of the tome, screeching notes howled for thoughts. Then silence, merciful silence after every period and in every period, anything to alleviate the horror of the cold and glaring honesty the book presented him.
For what Kresk read was the truth, a terrible and dark revelation that seeped into his mind. In his heart, the Fire Demon had always known what he read here. For in the Abyss, there are ancient things, more terrible and vast than can even be comprehended. And these were only the younger and more comprehensible of the ancient times…
Raven did not disturb Kresk's study, instead abandoning him to wander in the desert of enlightenment, stripped of all garments of familiarity. Raven herself knew the value of silence, understood the joys of an uninterrupted reading. She found such oases rarely in the wilderness of noise. But how little did she know that she was letting Kresk cast his net far past the shores into the depths of the unknown. For reality is but just an island, and the seas are deep indeed.
After three days of study, he came to her; the Fire Demon spoke to his apprentice again. He was standing in the corner of the kitchen, his orange eyes glowing through the dusk. But in them were the flames of zealotry and inspiration. When nobody was listening, Raven walked over and asked, "You doing okay?"
Silence, only silence. The demon stared into blank space. Raven only breathed out, "Okay…" and backed away. As the young mage retreated, Kresk called to her, "They spoke to me."
"They have spoken to me. I have heard their call. They demand that I bring them here so they may be free once more."
"Who is 'they'?"
"The Dragons Below, who are the One and the Three, the great kings of serpents and Flying Polyps. We must bring them here tonight."
"What? Are you insane? Oh, of course you are…"
"They only want what is best for us. You must help me. They spoke to me. I have heard their call. Tonight, be ready for the summoning."
"Do you have any idea what you're doing? Any idea of what could go wrong here?"
"Whoever believes in the Dragons shall not die, but live forever."
"I suppose this means that you have to give up drinking and gambling for your new found gods?"
"I'm celibate right now."
Raven only sighed and rubbed her eyes. "Do I have any choice in the matter?"
"Not really. Either you help or I give a sacrifice." Raven only groaned again after this, asking, "What do you need me to do?"
The ritual room hadn't changed much since Raven was last in it. The table was still in place, but the shelves and cabinets had been bolted down. Across the tables surface was an assortment of books, keys, and veritable Rosetta Stones for unlocking the secrets of the Necronomicon. In the center of the room, a magic circle had been drawn. The outer ring was inlaid with symbols and wheels to enhance the call. On the inside, a strange variation of inward curving triangle had been drawn and accentuated with jewels.
Raven walked in as Kresk was rummaging through a chest. "Alright, I'm here. Now where's the flute?" she asked. Kresk had requested that Raven play an odd flute he had found so as to please the Dragons Below when they arrived. She had protested that she had no training in the instrument; he told her that was for the best. Only mortal ears could perceive the rhythms and notes of material music. And the Dragons Below were far from material.
Kresk threw something to Raven and said, "Here put these on." Raven unfurled her cargo to look at it. One object was a long robe that, fully revealed, touched the floor. It was dusty and made up of cornhusks woven into burlap. The other item was a matching mask, similarly made of cornhusks and burlap. However, there was a clear space for the face, where a hole had been cut for a wide grin and two more punctures for eyes. "What's with the robes?" Raven asked. "The Dragons Below would be most displeased to learn that humanoids summoned them here. We must let them ease into this world."
Raven only shook her head as she slipped the robe on. It went past her feet, and the burlap scratched her bare legs. The next item was the mask; it smelled of dust and decay, and the mage felt her face grow hot under it. The young mage could see that Kresk was dawning his own mask. His was simpler, yet more terrifying. The top was a round, smooth circle that obscured his face, but left just enough room for his eyes. The lower portion was a mass of tentacles and antennae. As Kresk tied the straps in place on the back of his head, the tentacles began to move and feel through the air. Raven understood; in order for Kresk to speak even a syllable of this spell, he would need the mouth of its speaker.
"Are you prepared?" Kresk asked telepathically. "As I'll ever be." Raven responded. "Good. Remember child, what we do here tonight, we do for the glory of our race. What we do her tonight can never be undone. And what we do here tonight can never be repeated in the oceans of time. And now, I preach the hymns of the Dragons Below. And I say, hit it maestro!" Obviously, Kresk still retained some of his old vigor. Raven took the flute off the table, put it to her lips, and began to blow out random notes, moving her fingers like seizuring spiders.
Kresk opened the Necronomicon and began to recite the words within its tome. Words of madness, syllables of insanity, vowels of pain echoed through the air in the tentacle tongue. Raven could feel the strength, that hideous arcane strength, flow through her and the room. The circle began to glow and waver, beams of light coming from the outward most spirals. The triangle in the center moved and twisted in upon itself. Faster and faster, a virtual maelstrom, it swirled and coiled, ignited by the ritual, soon, there was no triangle, only a circle of light within the ritual's domain.
And it occurred to Raven, that the gate was open now. In that circle, just beyond that dreadful edge, was a godless no man's land of horrors unknowable and uncounted. They were daring to peer into the abysses of farther places, into the Far Realms that lay beyond our own tepid pond of justified existence. And now, now something was coming, rising from the depths.
The lights from the outer circles raised themselves high, barriers to protect Kresk and Raven. Kresk still chanted his obscene song while Raven called the horrors forward. Rising from the pool of light, three snakes of luminescence rose and twisted and danced to the horrible fluting of the pipe. But they grew, larger and larger, expanding in their hideous dance. And Raven knew what would happen next.
In an instant, there was the sound of a crash, a slamming of all that was material as the magical barrier broke. The three serpents disappeared, but only for a moment. And in that second, in that quiet space of time, Kresk lifted his mask to ponder, "What in ze-"
Kresk was interrupted in his profanity by the reappearance of a tentacle. It reared up for a moment, an angry monster surging forward from the illuminated depths. It lunged forward and wrapped itself around Kresk's legs, pulling the demon forward as he fell down. The Fire Demon bellowed and screamed like a gutted boar pleading for one last run through the forest. He rolled onto his stomach and unsheathed his claws. Surging one hand forward, the talons dug into the floor as the other hand followed and Kresk tried to crawl forward. But even with his strength and the leverage of his paws, the tentacle was still pulling Kresk towards the vortex that even now drew paper, jars, and other debris into its maw. Raven was finally able to discern through the nonsensical babbling, for Kresk's mask had fallen off, the clear cry, "RAVEN! HEEELP MEEE!"
"What about the Dragons Below?"
"SCREW THE DRAGONS BELOW! I WANT TO LIIIVE!" Raven, in a panic, asked, "What should I do? What should I do?"
"FINISH THE INCANTATION! OH, FOR GODS' SAKE, FINISH IT!" Raven ran over to the dropped Necronomicon. Kresk screamed louder, "I'M TOO PRETTY TO DIIIEE!"
"I can't read this!"
"THE MASK! PUT! ON! THE MASK! IT'LL HELP YOU!" Raven quickly found the tentacled mask as it was being drawn to the vortex. She tied the knot behind her head. As she looked at the Necronomicon now, the runes spinned and changed until they resembled Draconic. And so, words ready, Raven began to say the incantation.
"Oh, hear me, Dragons Below, masters of the eight seas of Kordan, heralds of the Crawling Chaos-"
Kresk screamed out, "YEA GODS, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH SHADOW OF THE VALLEY OF DEATH, I FEAR ALL EVIL, FOR THOU HAST ABANDONED ME AND LEFT ME TO DIE-"
"We, your humble servants beseech you, rise, rise from the void, from the bottomless pit, and bestow upon us the glories-"
"DOOM! WE'RE ALL DOOOMED! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" Kresk howled, as he was pulled further.
"Dance with us, as you danced with the ghouls and the strigae in the light of the bronze moons of Alecteckan, and do not think of us in our pains-"
"Ooh, that feels kind of good and OH GODS, THERE ARE SPIKES! THERE ARE JAGGED SPIKES! FASTER! READ FASTER!" Kresk was now halfway engulfed by the pit, his torso hidden by the floor.
"Mother Void, womb of wombs, father to the Black Goat in the Woods with her Forty Thousand Young, we beseech you to let your children sing to us and bless us with their presence. Give us your secrets, and we shall give you in return-"
"GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BLOOD, AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES, AS WE MOLEST THOSE WHO SPITED AGAINST US, AND LEAD US IN TO TEMPTATION-" Kresk moaned as now only his arms and head were above the circle.
"For your glory is boundless, and I say the name of the one who calls you his domain, the name which the Black Pharaoh Nyarlathotep protects from human ears, I invoke the name of Az-" The letters ended there as the inscription ended. There was a rumbling, as the light grew brighter. A roar, a mighty bestial roar emerged from the pit. Such a roar it was, defying all explanation, for it was as no sound any animal or instrument could make or imitate in its fury. The light grew brighter and brighter, until at last Raven covered her eyes with a shield of darkness. Even in her umbra, she was aware of the blazing sun and the roar growing louder. At last, there was an explosion, a boom that nearly shattered the cambion's ears and then silence.
Raven opened her eyes to the darkness and gasped in terror. Lying where the circle had been, were the Dragons Below. They were huge and gray, as long as school buses, yet somehow they curled in on themselves. They were long, like snakes or lampreys, and their skin was scabbed and scaly. Interrupting the skin was the occasional small mouth, pincer, eye, or even a tiny wing. Small tentacles sprouted here and there as well, serving as rudimentary legs. The tails ended in paddle like flukes, although they were asymmetrical and weathered. But the heads were truly horrifying, if they could be called heads. To be fair, they might have been called mouths. A ring of gigantic, sharp, oval teeth surrounded a softer darker flesh. Following the teeth was a series of various other tentacles, obviously used for feeding. And in the center was a hole flanked by six, curving scimitar talons. A ring of pure bright blue eyes was on the body just before the teeth. But Raven couldn't help but notice that there were only two Dragons Below here. Where was the third?
Looking up, Raven saw the last of the triumvirate on the ceiling. It had unfurled its body and was now spread out like a pseudonatural python. It was moving a large lump through its body towards its mouth. Its head expanded to nearly twice its size. Raven was disgusted to see a huge, fleshy proboscis emerge from inside the tentacles, where the inner hole and mouth claws were. It slithered to in front of Raven, regurgitating the giant piece of vomit. Red slowly appeared and ended in a moist Kresk. He was soaked from head to toe in a foul and brown green slime that smelled of all the dead fish in the world. He was shivering uncontrollably and he was able to stutter out, "I…I…I…I have seen things. Horrible things. Terrible things. Things no man has ever seen before or should ever HAVE to see."
"Are you alright?" Raven asked, concerned for the demon's health.
"I'VE BEEN VIOLATED!" the Fire Demon cried out. One of the Dragons shifted in its slumber. Kresk yelped when he saw it, and again when he saw the other one on the ceiling. Raven mockingly said, "They're kind of cute when they're sleeping."
"Yeah, then they wake up and the next thing you know you're screaming for your mind as pincers rip off your ears! Hey, where's it going?" The gravity defying Dragon was crawling with its ventral and side tentacles, barely little lungfish toes if anything, towards the door. Ignoring reality, it moved straight through the wall on to the ceiling outside. Raven and Kresk chased after it. It crawled right off the hallway ceiling and slithered through the living room air. Moving to the side, none of the other Titans noticed it, enamored with their comedy as they were. In fact, they had not known that anything was wrong thanks to Kresk's arcane barrier. Their only hint was a slight power surge when the circle was broken. The Dragon hit the window and crawled right through. It put its suckers on the glass and slithered down. Raven and (invisibly) Kresk ran up to the window. The Dragon only crawled down the tower leaving a trail of slime and sucker prints. It reached the shore of the island before it crawled into the ocean, the most familiar thing to its alien mind. It slithered in to the inky depths and searched for aquatic mysteries.
Raven and Kresk watched as the Dragon departed for submarine trenches. "What you looking at, Rae?" Beast Boy asked. "Fish, really big fish."
"It's gone now. Oh gods, I hope it is."
"Nothing, forget it."
Raven asked Kresk in his mind, "What do we do about the Necronomicon?"
"Don't worry. I know a place where it'll be in safe hands." The Fire Demon replied.
Three weeks later, the dean of Miskatonic University was greeted by a strange thing on his doorstep. A little, ugly man handed him a box, and told him it was for the University's private collection.
In case you're all wondering, this was before Raven showed Kresk to the Titans. And don't thank me for the word 'evilgasm'. Thank Xykon. Happy Halloween!