Many Midnights

 A Time for Horror       

          The old man leaned back in the worn chair. His joints, stiff with age, cracked and popped with each movement he made. His rheumy eyes scanned the shadowy figures huddled around the fire-lit room.

"There's a time for everything," he said with a hint of a smile, "a time for every purpose, under Heaven."

The form to his right, a hulking thing the size of a fully grown gorilla, jostled on its haunches. "Mmmghh," it groaned in a raspy tone reminiscent of an animal being skinned alive.

The old man chuckled, brown teeth jiggling in swollen gums. "I know, I know, it's from an old song." He adjusted his body in the chair. "It just seemed to fit.

Regardless, you, Lethroij a'may, it's your time now." He pointed at a leathery-gray creature to the left of the crackling fire. "I want you to venture south until you encounter a small tribe of primitive people called the Irianatha. Once there, you will hide in the shadows until nightfall and then reveal yourself only to a select few of their children." A wry smile creased his age-wizened face. "Then you will kill two, perhaps three of them. Make their deaths confusing, and leave numerous clues as to your methods, but not your motive."

The creature grunted.

"Good," the old man said, "you understand." He gestured toward an enormous iron door, ornately carved with streaks of dried blood across its façade. Leering gargoyles decorated each corner, glaring at any and all who would approach the door.

"Now go. It is time to spawn another legend, your legend. Your murderous deeds will create fear, which in turn leads to speculation, and then superstition. This will feed your existence, allowing you to grow and spread your influence to neighboring tribes."

            The creature shook with excitement upon hearing its mission. It opened its mouth, a thin slit that bisected its gelatinous head, and let out a skittish growl. It then slithered to the door and flung out a wavering pseudopod that latched onto the gaudy handle. With a savage twist, it then pulled the door open and disappeared into the inky void beyond.

"Make haste," the old man called out, "and remember to remain hidden. Let the people name you and give you form in their minds." He then straightened up in this chair. His face tightened in a frozen grimace.

He was pleased. He had started a new legend, and a particularly nasty one at that. The locals would let their fears rule their common sense and attach frightening aspects to Lethroij a'may, giving his creation new power, enabling it to continue with its wanton terror, thereby fueling more destructive speculation.

The old man leaned forward and gestured toward a stack of wood next to the fireplace.

"You," he said as he focused his steely gaze on a dull-yellow octopod thing. "More wood for the fire."

            The creature immediately shot forward a tentacle, snatched a log from the pile, and tossed it into the flames.

"Good," the old man hissed in satisfaction. "Now rest, my impatient companions. Rest until your time for horror arrives." He then leaned back and began singing to himself. "A time for every purpose, under Heaven."

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