Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dragon Fire Frights: The Wolves of Farsolm

Their howling can be heard each night, carried by a cold and bitter winter's wind, across the vast tundras of Farsolm. At its center was a small village encrusted in centuries old layers of ice, which was mostly a rest stop for expeditioners to the north pole and weary truck drivers.

I was the former, in this case:  A surveyor hired for an archaeological dig site. It was my job to accurately record the findings and report the team's progress directly to the financier, Mrs. Morgan York. She was a hermit that few ever met. I had only seen her once, myself, and it was the same day I was hired for this job.

It was about a year ago at a party held in Kingston; my friend Chase introduced us. They both were on the board of directors for the local museum. I had overheard a conversation about a nameless, nomadic tribe of the north: Pre-Inuits who diverged from the Dorset and were completely separate from the Thule.

Chase noticed my academic voyeurism and allowed me to join their small group. But how I do wish he hadn't. Mrs. York was actually quite stunning and not as shy as you'd think a hermit would be. She had with her an artifact that looked to be an idol of sorts. It was quite hideous and made me feel uneasy: an upright wolf with its belly engorged, eating its own pup. The statue reminded me of Francisco Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Sons." It was also, disturbingly, blood stained.

Morgan told me she stumbled across it while stopped in Farsolm for supplies during an exploration of the Arctic. She claimed the original trip was to view the aurora borealis from the best spot on Earth. Of course, little did I know that my new employer hardly possessed the necessary emotional faculties to enjoy such things.

Trouble first started when the team arrived. Apparently, Mrs. York failed to mention that she used the government's authority to facilitate our most intrusive search on any lands suspected of having these artifacts, regardless of permission from the property owners. Per the laws of some ancient treaty: if any of our discoveries originated from an existing first nations culture, the land could be taken away and given to the relics' corresponding tribes. This did not make us popular with the locals.

Eventually we stumbled upon artifacts of unknown origin. The land's owner, Roger Nanaq, was not worried about losing anything, however, and actually invited me over for coffee. It turned out he was part Inuit, and the townsfolk were not angry about what we'd originally believed. They were far more upset out of fear for what terrors we might unearth.

Roger proceeded to tell me about the horrible cult of Maragorah: the ancient wolf deity depicted in Morgan's idol. A legend which was only passed on by word of mouth within a small circle of their closest descendants. They were a secret cult that practiced the dark arts. Particularly, an abhorrent, ritualistic eating of their newborns. Members believed that by consuming the flesh and blood of their children, they could stave off aging. And it was common practice for the women to birth for sacrificial purposes.

According to Roger, it was the English who first and last stumbled upon the cult of Maragorah. The settlers quickly massacred the men, and then set it upon themselves to racially cleanse their people out of existence. And this is how Farsolm came to be.

It was not far into our interesting conversation that one of the men came to get me. They had discovered signs in the ice of a possible underground temple. But before I could rush out the door, Roger gave me a warning: "if you hear the howling, run." I thanked him for the coffee and assured him that I had dealt with both wolves and coyotes over my many years. "A surveyor is always prepared," I said. But how wrong I was; nothing could prepare anyone for what was to come.

When I got back to the site, I immediately called Mrs. York to tell her of our discovery and also to talk about Maragorah. She was ecstatic about the temple but cut me short on the history lesson. Her voice sounded so sinister and maniacally pleased; it sent shivers up and down my spine. And it turned out, she knew a great deal more than I thought about the cult and its demonic god.

We continued the excavation of the entombed temple. During this time, several townsfolk came to my trailer and begged for us to stop. They would even talk about restless nights filled with horrible nightmares and an increase of wolves surrounding the village. But we ignored their superstitions and continued.

I did begin to notice the local wolf population, though, and it was a bit unnerving  But when they would get too close, a simple shot into the air would cause them to scatter and retreat. I simply blamed our new circumstance on the men leaving food out or villagers louring them to our site, in a vain attempt to scare us off. Whatever it be, I wasn't going anywhere until my job was done. And this wasn't out of any contractual obligation to Morgan; I was spellbound by a strong and unnatural compulsion to continue onward. I needed to know what arcane secrets could cause so much distress to a village.

It took nearly a year of excavation  And in that time, we had unearthed so much history. It was going to put the museum on the map, and we were looking at a major payday. But more importantly, the temple was now ready to be entered. And it was time to finally behold what we had worked so hard to uncover.

The entry to the temple was blocked by a heavy slab of rock with an ancient, runic symbol etched onto the surface. It took all of our combined strength to pry it off of the portal. After which, we waited a short while for fresh air to repopulate its age-old caverns. Then slowly we crept down its icy steps, into the main chamber.

It was my light that exposed the revolting scene. Parish, our lead archaeologist, fainted upon gazing at the gruesome discovery. There it was: a large statue of Maragorah surrounded by a mound of frozen infant corpses.

We all stared in horror while manic howling could be heard  from above and all around us. But we still pressed onward, past the sacrificial chamber and into the next enclosure. The room was elongated with an apse and alter. On which, we found an instructional scroll of how to perform the cult's grotesque ritual. It had become obvious to me that this is what Morgan York really sent us to find.

As the men and I were ready to head back up, we heard the sound of the slab closing over the entrance  I screamed to whomever was up there to stop, but they did not hear nor care: leaving us trapped within the forsaken mortuary.

We tried everything to move the rock, but it was impossible to get all of us in the proper position to lift it together. The howling outside became louder, but not from the entryway. I followed the other source which led behind the hideous statue and discovered a narrow tunnel that went upward, back toward the surface. It was, however, too small for the average man to fit through—crushing the remaining hope I had of escaping.

As I sat in defeat, I began to hear other noises coming from the passage's end: clawing, scratching, and panting. I attempted to block the opening by pushing over the statue, but it fell short. So I ran and called for the men to help me to move it. But it was then that I tripped over the bones of one of the sacrificed children. My light fell from of my hand and rolled until it pointed at a peculiar skeleton, revealing a creature that was neither man or beast. And even worse, many of the remains had flesh still, but not that of the anciently preserved sort. No, it was fresh. My was still fresh.

After failing to block the other entryway, I went before the alter and tore asunder their vile manual. Then on the steps of the elevated apse, I closed my eyes and meditated in my final hour. I am there now, waiting in the darkness. And the howling continues to grow louder with each passing moment.

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