Parasite of Prayer

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The Shadow of Ma Short Story

Written by Gamingbrew

When the spring rain suddenly stopped, and months of drought began to choke the cities food supply, Lord Arathon’s famous iron resolve faltered. Spring slowly faded to summer and with it, the desperation of Arathon’s people. The hard-working Thalorians did not understand why not even a single cloud was visible in the dry, blistering sky.   To be Thalorian is to follow a strict social order. To be self-sacrificing and loyal to one's lord and one’s worship. Had they missed an offering to Asanna, Lady of the Land?   Did Rezmir of Light and Law decide the people of Arathon are unworthy of his golden blessing?   Despair is a strong motivation for finding faith. Lord and Lady Arathon, clerics, priests, farmers, city folk, and those who had once forsaken religion spent their days crying out to “The Above” with hopes of reaching the children of Al'Madoon for benevolence. Their laments fell on deaf ears.   Five full moons would pass without a single drop of rain. The riverbeds ran dry as both wild beasts, and Thalorian settlers became desperate and dangerous. Lady Arathon pleaded with her husband. “We can leave this town behind and make way to the Shimmerwood Forest. The Elves of Ishnal Rae can surely expel this curse that has befallen our homeland!” Unresponsive, Lord Arathon was lost in his own mind. Sunken eyes stared past his wife into nothingness. It was here Lord Arathon heard the first whisper.   “Bleed the remaining livestock on your farmlands and fields. Feed your crops with beasts of burden and I, Rezmir, bringer of Light and Law, will fill your bellies and your children's bellies. For as long as you are worthy of my grace, the roar of Rezmir will provide comfort in the dark.”   And so, Lord Arathon, broken and of ill mind, did as Rezmir commanded. The Thalorian’s blinded by hunger, drenched their farmlands with blood, rushing out like madmen to the barren fields ready to slaughter.   Within hours, crops sprouted and grew, towering high into a cloudless sky. The blood fed crops grew monstrous and thorned.   Unnatural.   --   Rumors began to spread of Lord Arathon’s waterless crops. How they swelled and provided for his people thanks to a gift from Rezmir. How the taste of what came from the blood-soaked field was unimaginable and delicious. Just one bite could feed a grown Thalorian for the day, leaving him full of vitality.   Even without rain and a lack of drinking water, the people of Arathon, full of life and fervor began to expand their city outward. Across the Thalorian Wilds, travelers made the long, perilous journey into the Shimmerwood Forest in hopes of tasting Rezmir’s bounty. The city flourished under Lord Arathon’s guidance until it could grow no longer.   --   Fat with strength, Lord Arathon began enjoying nightly conversations with his savior god. At first, the whispers were gentle and proud, praising Lord Arathon for reclaiming his iron resolve. But once addiction to the blood crop befell the city, the whispers grew impatient and brash.   “You will build a vast wall to protect the gift I have lovingly bestowed upon you my faithful Lord” the whispers mocked. “Danger lurks in the Shimmerwood Forest waiting to pillage your good fortune! If you hesitate, the greedy Elves will take your crops and throw your people into the sea. We must act quickly, or all will be forsaken!”   “The wall must reach from the Gulf's shore to the Tonarian Ocean. Elvish greed knows no bounds, or do you not remember the sacrifice my father performed to save you from their subjection?”   Lord Arathon obliged. The resourceful Thalorian people filled with their lord's urgency, and the potent blood-grown crops began construction. He only allowed his people limited rest. Many would stop to eat, sleep, or partake in the now accustomed hourly prayer to Rezmir but quickly returned to work. In the blink of an eye, a great wall blocked off Arathon from the rest of the world.   They were safe. They were alone.   --   Whispers rang out in Lord Arathon’s mind preventing sleep. Insomnia quickly followed, and he began to sink into the shadows, refusing to leave his manor. The whispers continued, piercing his every thought, surrounding him like long black tentacles. Choking. Drowning in despair.   The whispers gradually became arrogant and more feminine. A different, darker voice now echoed throughout Arathon’s chamber. “Rezmir has lifted the veil and learned of OUR deception. Fear not. He is but an echo, a stain. Worship whomever you desire so I may feed.”   Lord Arathon fell to one knee, clutching his temples. “What is happening!” he screamed in anger before striking himself with balled fists in frustration. The mad lord ran outside the keep and into the rain. He paused and looked up to the dark sky. “Rain?” he asked bewildered.   Arathon was unsure how long he spent hidden in his keep but was certain he had not heard the downpour. In a daze, he began walking through the town streets. Stepping deeper into the nightmare.   Large overgrown vines covered the city, weaving between what homes remained intact. Much of the city lay about in disrepair. Splintered lumber and broken stone sprawled in the fresh mud as hundreds of gargantuan branches covered in red and yellow thorns quivered overhead.   Lord Arathon inched slowly closer in disbelief. A large plant like pod came into view on the stoop of a crushed home. “Durstig’s shop,” he cried lurching forward. The pod began to pulsate on his approach, unraveling before him. The familiar face of Durstig, the blacksmith, stood out behind a ghastly plant-like visage. Durstig’s now dark green jawline cracked open as he attempted to speak. A gargled whisper emerged.   Arathon moved closer only to hear Durstig whispering Rezmir’s dogma. “All things are equal before the True Law. There is no peace without justice, there is no justice without law.” Arathon joined in the prayer. “Shine a light on injustice, wherever it may lurk.”   Looking out past the canopy of demonic vines rising from the ruins of Arathon, the great wall came into view. Visible atop the rampart, the unmistakable silhouette of an Elven battalion carrying the banner of Ishnal Rae stood. A figure moved to the front holding a golden trumpet. His luminescent armor shone brightly during a brief flash of lightning.   “Lord Arathon. Thalorian people.” The Elf paused as a volley of arrows flew overhead into one of the overgrown vines. The vine appeared to wither in pain from the Elves attack.   “The Parasite of Prayer and your corruption will be purged in the name of Rezmir, the true lord of Light and Law. May the creator take mercy upon your spirit.”   “How dare you attack my city Elvish filth!” Arathon shouted. His voice rang out with a thunderous force, catching him by surprise. Finally, the whispered warnings made sense. “People of Arathon, the Elves have come to claim our gift” his voice boomed full of authority. The fingers on Arathon’s right hand began to twitch. Instinctively he made a fist and with a wide grin saw five towering vines move in unison.   Breaking into an all out sprint towards the Elven battalion, Arathon balled his fist and punched wildly in the air. The five gargantuan vines shot out with astonishing speed slamming into the great wall and crushing the Elven battalion and golden trumpet.   Full of adrenaline, Arathon jumped as high as he could. A vine sprung forth from the ground wrapping around his waist and lifting him up over the great wall protecting his domain. Thousands of Ishnal Rae Elves in full battle regalia waited on the other side.   “Good. Come see the true power of Ma, Parasite of Prayer.” Arathon gleefully exclaimed as he made two fists above his head. Ten colossal vines covered in red dagger-like spikes rose above him.   A dark feminine voice whispered in his ear.   Arathon did not listen.

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