The Damning of James Mard

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The Damning of James Mard

Post by Sophiastra on Thu Apr 07, 2011 11:53 am

ATTENTION

I would like to add a few brief disclaimers to this post.

1. There is some dark and graphic imagery in this post and its continuation. For those of you not comfortable with that sort of thing, I encourage you to stop here.

2. For those of you who are Biblical scholars, or students of archaeology like myself, there is some recognizable material here (though not plagiarized). However, this is simply a story, so I request you forgive what artistic license I have taken.

3. As there is some historical reference here, let me be clear that the content of this story does not represent a commentary OF ANY KIND on the beliefs or history of ANYONE. It is simply a story.

4. Finally, I intend to submit the entirety of this story (when it is finished) to a contest. Therefore, I welcome any comments or criticism you may have, especially if it is constructive. **Please note: "That sux!" and "That's awesome", do not constitute constructive criticism (though I welcome those comments too, especially the latter kind sunny ).



Jimmy Mard was just the son of a farmer. But he had dreams, and sometimes those dreams foretold the future. Now Jimmy was no great seer, his dreams told him little things, like when his sister Elaine was going to try a prank on him, or when there would be a bad storm. But for the last week or so his dreams had been different, darker. His wife, Sheelie, reassured him that they were just nightmares. But Jimmy knew his dreams, and these dreams seemed too real, not like his foretelling dreams, but like he was watching the whole length of history unfold. And yet, the dreams were about places he had never even heard of, not even in tavern tales from the adventurers at the Sleeping Dragon. How could these dreams be important, Jimmy told himself, if they weren’t even about the real world. So when Jimmy lay in bed that night listening to the soft rhythmic breathing of his wife beside him and waiting for sleep to overtake him, he was almost excited to see what his dreams would show him next…

…Ssleeep…
…Ssleeep, now…
…Sleep, now, James William Mard…
…Sleep, and I will show you your future…
…Sleep, and I will show you your DOOM…


Jimmy’s dream self came alive with a jolt. He was immediately certain that he was in a dream. His dreams had never started like this before, and what was that voice. It seemed so familiar. No sooner had he come to that realization, than the images came pouring at him like a tidal wave, washing away all other thoughts. At first it seemed to be a replay of his dreams from the last week, only rushing by with terrifying speed.

A god, Yaam, rises and lays claim to the throne of gods, but is defeated and slain by another god Ba’al. This god rises and builds a great palace for himself and has many followers in many lands. In celebration of his eternal rule as god of gods Ba’al invites Mot, death personified, to dine with him, but Mot is offended and rebukes Ba’al, eventually slaying the god-king. But Ba’al cannot be so easily slain and rises from the dead and does battle with Mot, defeating death itself. In the times that follow, Ba’al Peor, as he comes to be known, proves to be a great and terrible god. At once, he provides the sun for his people’s harvest, and also smites them with the burning intensity of his solar gaze.

…The dream tide ebbs, the visions slow, and James sinks into the world of his dream. James alternates between the dissociated visions he is accustomed to, and being viscerally, desperately part of the scene as it unfolds…

A new god rises in the west and leads his people out of slavery and into the lands near to the domain of Ba’al Peor’s people, the Canaanites.

…James is a Canaanite shepherd and flees before the march of these wandering vagabonds. In the weeks to come he watches them from a distance and eventually works up the nerve to approach them. The wanderers tell him of their god, who claims to be the one and only true God. Intrigued, James prays to this God. Ba’al is displeased and turns his burning gaze upon the lands of James. A terrible drought sets in and James’ herd wither and die; James’ family is plagued and they all perish slow deaths…

Ba’al, in his many guises, seeks to subvert and destroy these wanderers. He tempts some of them to his worship and sets a plague upon their camp that they might doubt their true God. But they attack and defeat his people, the Midianites.

…James and his family are among those who are taken prisoner. The king of the wandering tribes orders that the traitors who turned to the worship of Ba’al shall be hung and James watches in horror at the vengeance of the gods played out before him. The king then rebukes his conquering lieutenant for taking so many prisoners and orders all but the virgin girls slain. James watches helplessly as his beloved wife is stoned to death with the rest of the women. The men are put to the sword. As he lay in a rapidly expanding pool of his own blood and the light goes out of his eyes, James’ last thought is of his innocent sister who will be kept as a concubine for one of these nomads…

The loss of so many of his faithful weakens Ba’al, and he is reduced. His anger festers like a boil as the newcomers lay claim to the lands known as Canaan, but he can do nothing to stop it. Ba’al Peor then becomes known by many names among his followers: Ba’al Hermon, Chemosh, Ba’al Zur, Ba’al Zebub. His worship survives and even grows, especially in Moab. And so Ba’al is able to rise again and he compels his followers to rebel against the three kings of Canaan, which is now Israel.

…James is a faithful soldier of Moab, devotee of Ba’al, known to him as Chemosh. He approaches the border of Moab, where the armies of the three kings are camped but a day away. When he and his fellows arrive the land across from them is flooded and the water stained with blood. A cheer rises and James is elated. His army rushes forward to gain the spoils, assuming that the kings must have quarreled or that Chemosh smote them. As the Moabite army approaches the camp of the three kings, the Israelites rise up and fall upon the vulnerable force like jackals. The screams of the dieing are all around him as James struggles to survive. But he too falls to a spear, and as he lay gasping for breath, his pierced lung filling with blood, James curses Ba’al Chemosh for forsaking him…

Ba’al’s rage burns with the intensity of the desert sun. He induces his followers to make great and terrible sacrifices to increase his power. Wealth and livestock, men and women, even children are sacrificed to Ba’al to assure the Moabites’ victory. Still the armies of the three kings sweep across the land. The cities are cast down and many are slain. Following their kings’ orders, the soldiers cut down every tree and foul the fields with stones.

…James is the son of Mesha, king of the Moabites. He stands on the wall of the royal city and watches as his father takes the 700 best soldiers of Moab, and with the divine blessing of Chemosh marches out to break through the siege lines to the king of Edom. James despairs as the force returns, shattered and defeated. His father joins them on the walls, where they fall to their knees and ask of Ba’al Chemosh why they have been defeated. James sees a ray of burning sunlight fall upon his father and Mesha falls into a trance. When he stands Mesha turns and strikes at his son and James falls before him. With the help of his men Mesha binds James to a stake and sets him above a pyre atop the city wall where the armies of the three kings can see. James is terrified as the same burning ray that fell upon his father descends and ignites the pyre. James screams in terrible agony and his suffering continues for what feels like ages, until finally he feels a presence entering him. As his soul is extinguished, James sees the light and manifestation of his god go out form his body and fall upon the armies of the three kings…

Ba’al Peor expends much of his strength to rebuke the army of the three kings, and although they retreat from Moab, it is left a shattered kingdom. Yet, his worship survives and Ba’al’s divinity remains intact. He maintains temples and ministers in Moab and in the lands of Israel. He even brings prominent men of his enemies to his worship, men such as Ahab.

…James is a cleric of Ba’al in the city of Moladah when the new king of Israel, Jehu, proclaims that he will give service to Ba’al even greater than Ahab. James receives a summons to the temple of Ba’al in Jerusalem to honor the king’s worship of Ba’al. All of the ministers of Ba’al from all the lands are in attendance. James is so excited; he hardly notices the press of the crowd or the soldiers in the pavilion outside. The king comes then and proclaims that none of the servants of the Israelite god are in attendance and he ushers James and the other exuberant clerics of Ba’al into the temple. Near to the center of the procession, James does not hear the cries of the first of the ministers to be put to the sword. Soon though, a general panic sets in as the soldiers cut down the trapped Ba’al worshipers like farmers harvesting barley. James is pushed and shoved by the desperate men around him. He falls beneath their terrified feet. James curls up like a babe to protect himself, but there are so many and they are like lambs at the slaughter, kicking and trying to escape. Dazed, his limbs broken and his ribs cracked, James looks up as the tumult and the screams subside. There, standing above him like the harbinger of his god, stands the king himself, and with a smile he plunges his sword into James’ heart…

Ba’al’s scream echoes across the heavens. He can feel the strength draining from him. He ignites and falls like a burning star to crash into the desert. Shattered, Ba’al lies in agony beneath the burning sun that is no longer his. He tries to rise but he can only hear the vague whisper of his followers to give him strength. Then the desert sun burns Ba’al for one hundred and eleven years. He is left only with hatred and agony until finally, the last of his worshippers is dead and his fury is extinguished to drift in the astral void for eternity.

James is freed from the dream tide and as his mind comes back to itself, a whimper escapes his lips. It is dark and he reaches beside him for Sheelie, but she is not there. It is too dark, James realizes. As he pulls himself to his feet and looks around the weight of the darkness settles in on him. It is a palpable pressure all around him like swimming in water, but there is a sense of consciousness in the dark as well. James feels as though he is being watched, not by something crouching in the darkness, but as if the darkness itself is watching him from all around. Panic begins to creep in, and James turns in a circle, desperately straining for the slightest hint of light in the impenetrable gloom. His footsteps seem too loud in the dark, and with each echoing sound a subtle pressure washes over him, like the hot breath of a stalking beast. James falls to his knees sobbing. He prays silently to Prizmal for the coming of the dawn and release from this terrible nightmare. A sudden, almost tangible feeling of hatred washes over him and terror interrupts his prayer. James begins to tremble. Sanity and hope seem like abstractions, ideals somehow lost in the horrible black surrounding him.

Then James notices a faint flicker at his feet. He wipes the tears from his eyes and there beneath him, running away into the inky distance, is a path of silvery iridescence. It is faint, but James marvels that he did not see it sooner. James follows the trail. The simple act of following something, of believing that there is somewhere to go other than this endless expanse of night gives James the strength to ignore the lurking hateful presence of the dark.

The shining path seems to be some sort of residue, like murky oil spilled on an ebon sea. James follows the shifting swath of slime for what seems like hours. For a time he counts his steps, not to recall the distance he has traveled, distance seems meaningless in the endless expanse of darkness, but rather to account time. Eventually, he gives up on even that futile exercise, though he still follows the trail of filth, his only comapanion in the lonely black. Finally, after what seems an eternity, some dim part of James’ mind becomes aware of a flickering orange light, not much bigger than a star in the night sky. The shimmering path seems to be leading him there, and James anxiously follows.

After another meaningless length, James becomes certain that the light has grown closer and his step quickens. Eventually, he can see that the light is not flickering, but pulsing like the beating of a heart. Soon shapes become visible and as he approaches they take form. In the center, and apparently the source of the light, is a man, or something like a man. The figure is at least twice the size of a man, resplendent in armor of crimson and black. There is something indescribably wrong about his symmetry. It is as though James were looking at him through a shifting broken window. James recoils instinctively, and his mind stutters, urging him to flee. He almost obeys, but one glance over his shoulder at the endless black surrounding him and he steadies his nerve.

James looks down at himself and cannot see his hands, so he assumes that he must be out of the radius of the light. He crouches down nonetheless and watches the scene before him. The giant man stands with arms outstretched before a lump of some silvery substance. James notices that the trail he has been following leads to the large mass. The giant must have dragged it through the dark. Around the giant's feet, cracks run out through the ebon ground like streams of blood and they pulse in time with the light. As James watches, the light becomes brighter with each pulse and bits of the silvery mass dissolve like ice beside a fire. Each pulse sends a wave of sickness and a palpable sense hatred and madness through James. But James will not turn away from the only ‘place’ in the endless gloom.

The evaporating silver essence begins to give way to a shape like a human being. Eventually, a naked man lies before the pulsing figure, his skin burned and flaking. As the last of the shining film burns away from the prone man, the light briefly flares bright enough to make James squint. The fallen man sits up like a bolt and releases a long piercing cry of rage and agony. James covers his ears to shut out the terrible sound but it will not be held back. After what seems an age the burnt figure slumps, apparently spent.
James cringes and his mind reels as the armored giant begins to speak; his voice is all at once like the shattering of glass, the crumbling of mountains and the tortured cries of the mad. “Welcome. I have revived you from the endless sleep of the Astral Void. How do you feel?”

The burnt man rises to his feet, trying and failing to hide the weakness in his legs. “I feel like a struck match, but my strength is returning.”

“Good, I had hoped you would recover well.” The armored giant glances around and for a moment James is sure his gaze stops on him. Bile rises in his throat as the burning pits that should be the giant’s eyes transfix him. Yet the giant looks back to the man before him. James lets out a steadying breath.

The burnt man, taking stock of his empty surroundings says, “Who are you? What hell is this?”

The armored giant’s laugh rises in a mad crescendo then suddenly stops leaving a grim look and a stern tone to his voice, “I thought it should be obvious. This is my domain and I am your master and savior.”

The burnt man, despite his nakedness and the difference in their size, takes a threatening step toward the armored giant, “I am Ba’al Peor! I am a god among gods, slayer of Yaam, vanquisher of death, and wielder of the flame of heaven. No demon may call me master and I am the only true salvation! Kneel and I will forgive you your insolence as a favor for freeing me from the Void.”

The armored giant throws back his head and laughs a mad bellowing laugh. The light flares brighter and the burnt man is driven to his knees. James can feel the awesome power of the giant radiating through the crimson light and he begins to tremble in terror. Finally the light and the hideous laughter fades and the giant silently stares at the burnt man before him. As the man begins to rise from his knees, the giant says, “You are a god no longer. Not in your world and certainly not here. You are a dimly remembered idol in the mythos of your enemy. You are reviled as a representation of the failings of ‘false gods’. Your divinity is a joke and your power is only what I have given you. You were a drifting lump of Astral filth before I revived you and you are as fragile as driftwood before me now. It is you who will kneel before what little mercy I possess.”

The burnt man seethes with rage but makes no move to dispute the giant’s words. He straightens himself and with a determined stare asks, “Why then have you brought me here, if am but so much flotsam?”

A sinister smile spreads across the giant’s face and blood oozes between his fangs to drip down his chin. “Ahh. Now those are words worth speaking. I heard the echo of your rage and hatred calling to me through the Astral Void and it was sweet like the blood of fallen innocents. Such powerful hate as that which can survive the millennia should be put to use, not left as a memory in a drifting husk. So, I have revived you to give you a chance to regain some of the glory you once knew…in my service, of course.”

“And, what might that service be?”, the burnt man asks.

“Its simple really; go forth and destroy everything that gets in your way. Slaughter the innocent, lay low the righteous and spread chaos and madness wherever you go," the giant replies.

“I am…was…a terrible master, but I was never a slavering monster. Why should I wish to indulge your obvious insanity?”

A pulse of light and anger came from the giant, “I do not care about your reasons! I only care for their results. But if you need motivation, then let it be for power. Crush your enemies in the hope that through their slaughter you can regain your place in the heavens. And if that is not enough for you, know this, I resurrected you and I can destroy you. Only this time you will not drift in the slumber of dead gods. I will extinguish the very thought of you from the universe.”

The burnt man pauses for a time as though pondering the irrefutable offer, then replies, “I accept your terms, but know that should I ever reclaim my rightful place, you may be the first to fall from the heavens.”

The giant laughed his hateful laugh again, “I would expect no less from my servant.”

“What then may I call my new patron?”

“I am known by my followers as Ragnor, god of destruction, sower of strife, the wellspring of madness. My enemies tremble and call me the Broken One, lord of chaos.”
James shudders and feels a terrifying sense of despair wash over him. A part of him knows this is just a dream. But the greater part screams in abject horror at the terror that stands before him, Ragnor the Destroyer. His fear becomes all-encompassing and hope flees from him then. All James can do is stare as the scene unfolds before him.

The burnt man makes the barest semblance of a bow and speaks, “Well then Ragnor, I present myself as your champion, Ba’al Peor, Flaming Eye of the Desert, bane of the three kings, corruptor of the twelve tribes of Yahweh.”

“No. Those titles have been lost to another world and a distant age. You are MY champion and I dub thee Baelphegor, Champion of Chaos and Soulbreaker Prime. Know that my minions will covet the favor I offer you and will seek to destroy you. It is the way of my ministry. But I am confident you will rise to all challenges.”

“Then I am ready. Open a gate and I will seek my place in the mortal plane,” the burnt man says, looking around for a portal.

“You are eager to begin my work. But a gate will not serve. You are an outsider to this world. An outsider even to this universe. The mortal plane will not accept you until you are attuned. But I have prepared a vessel to contain you, a native soul for you to devour and an attuned body to serve you.”

Terror turns to frenzy and James’ torpor is broken. He scrambles clumsily to his feet and daring the endless dark, turns to flee. He barely makes it a dozen paces when an unseen force lifts him from his feet and turns his flailing body back in the direction of the two evil beings from which he seeks to flee. Ragnor’s burning gaze is upon him and the wicked blood soaked smile is painted across the dark god’s face.

“Speak of the devil and he shall be with you.” The mad god’s twisted laughter assails James as, writhing, he is dragged toward the pair.

“This is the vessel you have prepared for me? This man looks little more than a frightened peasant. Am I to crawl to the heights of power from so low a position?”

“Judge not the soul from its reflection. This peasant willed himself into my domain from the mortal realm…with a little coaxing of course. Besides when you are born into his body and you devour his soul you will carry with you the last embers of your former divinity. The power will not last for long without your worshippers to maintain your unholy fire, but when the last of it is used up you will remain a demon-spawn of Ragnor, greater than this lowly peasant.”

James continues to thrash but he cannot seem to break free of the force that is holding him aloft. He prays to Prizmal once more to bring the dawn and wake his body from this nightmare. But there is no release. Then he remembers a mantra that an old wizard once taught him to wake himself from the grip of his prophetic dreams. James recites the mantra in his mind and begins to mumble it under his breath. He hopes that the dark god and his champion cannot hear him, but luck is not with him. Ragnor turns his gaze upon him and the flaming pits in the Broken One’s eyes flare brighter. A terrible pain stabs into James mind as he meets that gaze and he can feel his thoughts spiraling into madness. Somehow, James finds the mental strength to continue the mantra. His voice rises until he is shouting it in defiance of the blazing chaos in Ragnor’s eyes. With a final shouted syllable, James’ strength gives out and he feels himself falling…

…falling into unconscious…
…falling into madness…
…falling in the dark…
…falling…


Last edited by Sophiastra on Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:33 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Formatting and minor grammar)
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Re: The Damning of James Mard

Post by daveyeisley on Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:50 pm

Excellent material and imagery. With the exception of some spelling and grammar stuff, this read quite smoothly. Smile

In the beginning, with the dream sequences, it might be helpful to clarify when the persona James is "possessing" changes. I got a little confused when it seemed like he was supposed to be a Canaanite shepherd, and then ended up a Midianite prisoner, until I realized the dream sequence had changed.
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Re: The Damning of James Mard

Post by Sophiastra on Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:09 pm

I tried to differentiate between James' incarnations with the ... before and after each sequence. But if that is unclear, I'll try something else, perhaps a brief statement.

As for the grammar mix ups...well it is a draft. I just caught a bunch of them myself as i read through it.
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Re: The Damning of James Mard

Post by daveyeisley on Sat Apr 09, 2011 7:57 am

One other suggestion:

depending on your vision for the piece.... you may be able to keep the intent of it intact while changing the various names of paces and groups from historical/biblical terms to fantasy ones. This would also more or less reduce or eliminate the need for a disclaimer, and the possibility of any readers being affronted.

Either way, I think it is damn good writing.
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Re: The Damning of James Mard

Post by sniknej79 on Thu May 05, 2011 1:50 pm

Wonderful story! Hungry for more. Good luck with the contest.
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