1640, Wampanoag

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My father taught me to kill.

‘Killing is a chore.’

That simple statement is one that has remained with me for close to four centuries, and while killing is occasionally enjoyable, my father spoke the truth.

I learned this in 1640.

I was close to my twelfth birthday, and I had already slain my mother at the table several months earlier.

We were having trouble with the Wampanoag tribe that lived within a day of us, and they had decided to raid Cross. They had killed a pair of brothers working in their field and chased myself, my sister, and my brother into the garrison house which – at the time – stood between our property and that of the Coffins. With my father and the elder Coffins at the firing-ports, we held the Wampanoags off until they grew tired of attacking us.

We did not wait long to visit our revenge upon them.

My father brought me and some of the older Coffin boys and men to the Wampanoag village.

Our attack was swift.

We set fire to their outbuildings, destroyed the food they were setting in for winter, killed several of the men and took the remaining eighty-one Wampanoags prisoner.

My father recorded it succinctly.

‘I was right to bring Duncan with me on this raid. He has a steady hand for one so young, and he had no remorse when putting the torch to the village. Would I not have to train him in this fashion, but I am afraid it is for the best.

‘These prisoners shall illustrate a point to the other tribes, for I have asked their war chiefs to send me representatives. With these emissaries on the banks of the Cross River, they shall learn that we shall not falter. Duncan, as my son and as a child of this place, shall show them that our children are strong.’

I remember the day well.

I helped to bring the prisoners out to the center of the river, and with the representatives of the other tribes watching, I helped drown the Wampanoag men, women, and children we had taken prisoner.

Killing is a chore, one my father taught me not to shirk from.

The Dutch

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My father did not care for religion.

By 1607, my father had returned to the western world.

He made his way to the Netherlands, where he joined the Dutch armies as they fought against the Hapsburgs and Catholicism. It did not matter to him that the Dutch were Protestants. It did not matter that the Hapsburgs were Catholics. All that mattered was who was paying him more.

My father became skilled in the use of firearms at that time, more a testament to his obstinance than anything else.

For ten years, my father fought for the Dutch. He mastered the rough firearms of the time, and he learned how best to sail a ship and weather a storm on the open seas. He learned the finer points of the cannon, and he became knowledgeable in Greek and Latin, languages which would serve him well later in life.

At the end of the decade, he was aboard a Dutch privateer that found itself in a fierce battle with an English ship for a fat Spanish prize. The Spanish ship sank with all hands and her gold, and that set the fight into a fever pitch. By the time everything was finished, my father alone stood on the blood-soaked deck of the privateer. His Dutch comrades were dead around him, and there were a fair amount of English sailors breathing their last on the ship as well.

When the Englishmen attacked again, confident in their ability to kill one man, my father stood his ground. Three of the Englishmen were dead within moments.

Twice more, the sailors attacked, and each time they lost men.

My father records that the next man to approach him was the English captain. The man, according to my father, approached him weaponless and with arms outspread. The captain then offered my father a berth on his ship.

‘When I asked the captain what coin he offered,’ my father wrote, ‘the man responded, What coin will you have? I named my price, and he gave it.’

My father helped set fire to the Dutch privateer, taking only his weapons from the ship. He would, as far as the Dutch were concerned, be as dead as those he had sailed with.

Vanishing into the ranks of another army, like killing, was an easy task.

The Americas

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He taught them about war.

Sometime in the late fifteen hundreds, my father accepted the coin of the Spanish monarchy and traveled with a group of mercenaries to the New World. Where he fought did not matter to him, although in his journal from the year 1592, he does confess some curiosity as to what the New World might be like.

He was not impressed.

The men he served alongside were soldiers, like himself, and those he fought were soldiers of another kind. Both my father’s allies and his enemies were beneath him, and they knew far less about killing than they thought they did.

He taught them.

By this time, my father was using the name Ezekiel Blood (and I admit I do not know what his true name might have been, though I have been told that Blood is merely an anglicization of the Danish surname ‘Blod’).

My father records a night when a group of natives caught several of his party out where they should not have been.

The screams of the men rang out through the jungle, the men used as bait.

My father and the others knew it for what it was, and they went into the darkness.

In the jungle, my father could sense the presence of the natives as they kept pace with the mercenaries. The screams of the men were transformed into shrieks, cries for mercy being interjected during pauses that were all-too-short.

When my father and the others entered an open clearing where the captured mercenaries were being tortured, the natives attacked.

The natives, men and women, were armed and skilled in war.

Or so they thought.

My father struck one man down with the back of his hand, wrenched the native’s warclub free, and waded into the fight.

He was merciless, for he was paid to be so.

‘I showed them how to die.’

It is a simple line written near the end of the journal entry for that day, and it speaks volumes about my father.

There is only one more line in the entry, and it too is simple and to the point.

‘Three and Sixty Dead,’ my father noted. ‘My companions fear me.’

I suspect he was smiling when he wrote it down.

Business 

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My father had a talent for war. 

Most of what I know of my father has come from two places. The first is from his own lips. I was denied this source far too early in my long life. The second from the books he hid away. 

It is only this past year that I have discovered them, hidden away in a part of his study I had not known existed. I was surprised to find this place as I have lived here for almost four centuries, and I was confident that I knew all there was to know about the structure. 

Once more, my father has taught me a lesson. 

I was in his study, reminiscing when I noticed an irregularity with the far wall. It was closer than it should have been. When I examined it with greater care, I found it folded in upon itself, revealing several hundred journals.  

They were dated as far back as 1403, and the last one bore the year he went missing. 

I brought a cup of coffee and my pipe into the room, took down the earliest journal, sat down in my father’s rocker, and began to read. 

He was, I learned, bred for war.  

The journal, written entirely in Latin, described a series of battles. My father hired out as a mercenary, loyal to neither king nor crown.  

In one section of the journal, I found a drawing, the description above it telling of how my father took part in the destruction of a city in Italy.  

He was one of two men in a large tower, wheeled forward to the walls. When they were close enough, the other man lowered a bridge, and my father leaped onto the battlements. Armored and armed with an ax, he set about his business.  

He fought with abandon, delighting in the butchery, the fear and desperation of his opponents. He cast them down, both the living and the dead, into the streets below and battled his way to the gates. As my father broke into the gatehouse, he scalded the men with their own boiling oil, garroted the archers with their strings, and opened the gates. 

What had the citizens of the city done to warrant an attack? 

My father neither knew nor did he care. 

He was paid to kill, and killing’s a chore.  

Ezekiel Blood 

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He was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands. 

My father, Ezekiel Blood, had been born sometime in the fourteenth century, though I know not exactly when. From what I gather, he had been born in what is now Denmark, and both his parents had been Danes. 

When he was ten, his parents brought him to England. They were to pay a visit to where one of his ancestors had fallen in battle, and it was in this same place that he killed his first man. As his parents went into the town, my father chased after a pair of puppies racing along the roads. My grandparents had allowed him to do so and inadvertently saved his life. 

My father told me that he had caught up with the puppies in a small copse of trees, and it was from there, with the puppies on his lap, that he saw his parents slain. 

Somehow, the townspeople had learned of my family’s unique traits. Somehow, the townspeople knew that they were related to the men who, centuries earlier, had pillaged the town. 

As my father watched, his parents were pierced by pikes, pinned to the ground, and set aflame.  

It took them nearly ten hours to die. 

My father remained hidden, the rank stench of his own parents’ burning flesh heavy in the air. 

That night, when the townspeople butchered the charred corpses and sealed each portion in a separate container and spread out through the town, my father crept into town.  

He moved from house to house around the perimeter of the town for hours, patient and silent. In his small hands, he held a slim blade, and he killed hundreds. No one was spared. Not the aged nor the infirm, neither mothers nor suckling babes. 

All died at my father’s hands. 

When it was close to dawn, he began to set fire to the buildings.  

Few made it out of the flames alive. Those who did, he hunted down over the following months until not a single citizen of the town remained alive.  

With the puppies as his companions, my father stayed in England and learned about death. He traveled the country, ranged down into Wales and then up into Scotland, and finally over to Ireland. When his aging slowed at fifteen, he traveled across the English Channel to France, and from there, he made his way deeper into the Continent.  

Amongst the Gauls and the northern tribes, he found a religion he was familiar with, how best to use an ax and the finer arts of killing. 

My father was the finest of men. 

Company

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They sang on the shelves.

The books I’d taken from Langer’s were among their kin in my private library. They sang to one another in languages I’d never heard and others I barely understood. Occasionally, one would speak in a recognizable tongue, but even their conversations were upon subjects I could never comprehend.

Still, it was pleasant to hear them.

I sat in my chair and worked my Bowie knife over a whetstone. I had to put the edge back on it. I’d spent eleven hours cutting on Langer, and that time had left the blade dull and nicked in more places than one.

I smoked my pipe as I worked and tried not to think about the task that lay ahead of me. There were bodies in the barn, bodies brought from Miskatonic University and from Langer’s farm in Pepperell. Over the next few days, I’d be digging holes in the orchards and planting corpses to feed Jack’s saplings.

It was the least I could do for my friend.

At the thought of the apple tree, I glanced over at the shelf to where Langer’s skull stood. I’d taken it from him, seeing as how he didn’t need it anymore, and I’d let it boil over a fire made from the limbs stolen from my friend.

Langer’s skull had taken on a faint scent of applewood, and it was a damned fine smell.

It reminded me of Jack, of fine conversations, and the satisfaction of revenge.

“Blood!” one of the books called.

I looked up from my knife. “Aye?”

“Sing us a song,” the book demanded, and the others lent their voices to the request.

“A song?” I set the knife and stone down, tamped down my tobacco and replied, “I don’t know any that are fit for decent company.”

At this, the books roared with laughter, and the book that had spoken asked, “Who says we are decent company, Duncan Blood?”

“Fair enough.” I chuckled and cleared my voice.

I thought of the foulest marching song I knew and then let it fill the room.

The books knew it as well, and soon the house shook with our singing.

It was a fitting way to honor my friend and those soldiers I’d been forced to kill.

#trees #horrorstories

Langer

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I found him in his room.

The book’s directions, not surprisingly, had been dead on.

I didn’t bother kicking the door in. When I reached the top of the narrow stairs, the last few boards squealed, and the wood of the door splintered as Langer emptied all five shots from his pistol. I heard the clatter of empty casings on the floor and let myself into the room.

He sat in a chair, sword on the table in front of him and a box of cartridges open beside it. Langer fumbled with an older model Colt, his fingers failing him as he dropped his reloads onto the floor.

I drew my Colt, thumbed the hammer back and waited.

He glared at me, a sneer creeping onto his face, half-hidden by his beard. “I am not afraid to die, Duncan Blood.”

“I’ve no fear about killing you,” I answered. “But that’s not what this pistol’s for.”

His eyes flickered, darting from my face to the Colt’s barrel.

“The pistol is here to make you comply,” I continued. “You’ll put your revolver on the table and your hands on your knees.”

His sneer broadened. “No.”

I shot him in his left shin.

The deafening roar of the Colt in the confines of the room did not smother Langer’s howl of pain.

I cocked the hammer again, and he slammed his revolver onto the table, pushing it away from him, his face pale and his breath rushing in and out between clenched teeth.

“You killed my friend,” I said, drawing my knife with my free hand. “Had him cut down and his limbs scraped and shaved to weave a basket around your dead child.”

“Yes,” he snarled.

“You did it wrong and opened her flesh to whatever was lingering in the air.”

His hands twitched and moved towards his sword.

I shot him in the other shin.

Panting, he let his hands fall to his side.

Striding forward, I kicked the wounded man out of his chair, holstered my Colt and leaned over the old bastard.

“When I was young, I went to Quebec, and I fought the French and their allies, the Huron. I remember when the Iroquois would take a Huron prisoner and how they would torture him. They wanted to see how strong he was. How well he could withstand the pain. Some of them lasted for days. I doubt you’ll make it through the night.”

I was right.

#trees #horrorstories

A Trap

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He meant for them to be a trap.

It didn’t work.

I heard whispering behind a closed door, and when I forced my way in, expecting a pistol to be leveled at my chest, I found books instead.

It took me a moment to hear what they were saying and a breath or two longer to understand it.

They were speaking a mixture of Latin and ancient Greek, and what they were saying did not reflect kindly upon Tad Langer. His wife. Or his parentage, of which there was some doubt as to whether his father was or was not his mother’s husband.

I let out a chuckle at the last bit, and the books went silent.

“You understood us?” a voice asked from a shelf above the room’s desk. The question was posed in the King’s English.

“Aye, easily enough,” I replied in the same.

Another voice, deeper and farther from the first, asked, “Are you the one old Langer told us to wait for?”

“Did he give my name?”

“No,” the books stated in chorus.

“Huh.” I scratched my chin, then grinned. “I suppose it’s because he didn’t want you running off with me.”

“Running off with you?” The books laughed. “And you are….”

“Blood,” I answered. “Duncan Blood.”

The laughter ceased.

The first book cleared its voice. “Tell me, who is your father?”

“Ezekiel.”

Whispers raced through the library, and then the first book silenced them all.

“And your mother?” the first book asked.

“Dead,” I answered, “although she won’t stay that way.”

“Natural causes?” the first book ventured.

“If a kitchen knife is natural, then aye.”

A pleased sigh filled the room.

“He was right not to tell us,” the first book said. “We will run off with you. Or go, since running is something we cannot do. Will you return for us?”

“If you’ve a mind to go to my farm, then by all means. First, though, I’ve Langer to deal with.”

“He’s hiding in his room,” the first book stated. “There’s a secret door at the end of the hall. Push on the second knot in the pine on the left side of the doorframe. You’ll find the stairs there. He’s armed, by the way. A five-shot revolver and his sword. Not that you need to worry about either.”

“Thank you. I’ll be back soon enough.”

“Knife work, Duncan?” the first book asked.

“Aye. Knife work.”

#trees #horrorstories

Wrong

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It didn’t work.

I could have told Langer that without the death of Jack. As it was, his stupidity and hubris would cost him.

Just as soon as I found the bastard.

I entered the church that served as Tad Langer’s home. When I entered the main portion, I found a casket and flowers and the faint stench of decay lingering in the confined space.

I went to the coffin in the center of the room, swept the wreaths off the top and unlocked the lid. Drawing a Colt, I opened the casket and looked down upon the decomposing face of a young woman. Jack’s severed limbs had been trimmed down into thin slats and woven into a rough blanket.

Whatever magic Langer might have known, it failed him here.

Either that or something foul had claimed the woman and her soul, and thus there was nothing left to be brought back.

If that was the case, then he should consider himself lucky. An empty body with an open doorway is often a recipe for disaster.

Even as the thought crossed my mind, the dead woman’s eyes flickered.

Something had come in.

She opened her eyes, the irises milky and ichor seeping out with the ease of tears.

“Blood.” Her voice, thick with mucous, was painful to hear, her breath foul. “I know you.”

I cocked the hammer back, and she snarled.

“You killed me,” she hissed and tried to free herself from the woven blanket.

She couldn’t.

“You’re not the only one,” I told her.

“I didn’t deserve it,” she snarled.

“Deserve’s got nothing to do with it,” I replied.

“Do you know me?” she demanded.

“No. Don’t rightly care, either.”

Her face twisted into a hateful glare. “Samuel Olcott.”

My memory flickered, locked on, and I let out a surprised laugh. “I remember castrating you, Captain Olcott. I am sorry about your wife. She was an unpleasant part of the chore.”

“The slattern doesn’t matter!” the dead man shrieked. “I went to Hell without my manhood!”

“Looks like you’re going back the same way,” I stated and put two shots into the corpse’s head.

With the spirit of Olcott silenced, I chuckled and returned to my search.

Langer still needed to die, and he might even go the same way Olcott had.

#trees #horrorstories

Curiosities

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He was and wasn’t there.

It took me the better part of the day to kill or drive out the men who’d been defending Langer. When I reached the main house, I breached the door and found myself in what I can only describe as a tomb.

The bodies of the soldiers were gone, and judging by the bloody streaks through the main rooms, the wounded had dragged off the dead.

They were, as I had observed, good soldiers. They didn’t leave their dead behind.

I searched through each room, calling out as I went. I wanted Langer to know I was coming for him. I wanted him to have Jack’s remains ready for me, for I, like the soldiers, was going to bring my dead home.

When I opened the last bedroom door on the top floor, I did not find Tad Langer. I found something else.

The room beyond the door shifted as I stood on the other side of the threshold, watching from the hall.

A man who was and wasn’t there sat in a wicker chair and looked at me as I looked at him. Around him, parts of the furniture shifted as though someone was gently shaking it in and out of focus.

“Fångad.”

The word was faint, a mere whisper in the air, and it took me a moment to translate it.

Trapped.

I nodded. “I can see that.”

He smiled, shrugged, and said, “Jaja.”

Oh well, indeed.

I patted a Colt, and he shook his head. As I watched, he pushed his hand through his own chest, and nothing happened.

“I’m sorry,” I told him.

He chuckled. “Jaja.”

“Do you know where Langer is?”

“Kyrka.” His voice was fainter, the word more difficult to understand.

“The church?”

He smiled. Then, using his finger as though it were a gun, he placed it against his temple and mimicked pulling the trigger.

“You want me to kill him?”

The smile faded, and he nodded. He gestured toward himself and spoke. “Langer.”

 “Fire?”

He shook his head.

I hesitated, then said, “If you make it out, and you’ve a notion to, come to Cross. I’m Duncan Blood. There’s always coffee on and good tobacco. Better whiskey.”

The man gave a solemn smile, raised his hand in farewell, and I left him there, not quite in the world or out of it.

I hoped I’d see him again. He seemed a fine fellow and one more reason for Langer to die.

#trees #horrorstories