's 2013 Horror Write-off:

"His Majesty"

Submitted by Peter Allan

His Majesty

My arrival at the palace is heralded by a procession of scuttling, hunched figures, robed in tattered finery, hoisting my banners, playing all assortments of discordant instruments through their lipless, decayed jaws. Behind them, I ride in my cabin, topped with leathery flags and tarps, perched in the crook of my mountís enormous black carapace as it froths at the mouth and lashes its tendrils at the marchers ahead of us. We journey across the wastelands for days on end, accompanied always by the constant discordant blaring of the marchers. The palace doors tower over us, slowly pulling aside to a hideous grinding noise. The gates lift, and the guards are calmed from their frothing rage into allowing us passage to the inner sanctum.

The halls now loom over us, deathly quiet and dark, stretching beyond what the eye can see in darkness. Shapes move in the gaps between the stone pillars, vast and indistinct. After marching for hours, we arrive at the center, coming upon the Court of His Majesty himself, seated at their stone desks, squabbling at one another in warped voices, gibbering incoherently, clicking their mandibles and staring from out of their veiled and hooded robes. At the center of the assembly, His Majesty stands, draped in jewelry and furs, wrapped in silken robes, waiting patiently for the crowd to settle. As quiet falls and the Court assemble, His Majesty raises his fifth head to address the audience, speaking in seven separate languages and intonations from each of his mouths.

His interpreter scrambles around the Court, announcing to all that His Majesty welcomes the guests to his halls, saying that they are welcome to his hospitality and that they will discuss over a meal, provided by him. At this, servants drag in platters full of food and drink, with sinewy, roast, segmented legs and steamed meats served in the shell, slathered with sauces and liquors served from dull brass pots. There is much feasting, with goblets overflowing with punch, many varied stews and soups, vegetables whose slimy tendrils undulate in sauce. His Majesty does not eat, remaining silent in the center of the Court. After, the leftovers are carried away, and His Majesty gestures with a hooked claw that he invites us all to stay and see a show in the Court.

At piping of the guards, I turn to leave, saying my goodbyes in the elder language. They smile from behind their carapaces, amused by my arrogance. Hours pass in my absence. In the sanctum, all is silent. The guards themselves turn to leave, superstition guiding their uneven footfalls on the tiles of the court. They know better than to rouse the Elite from their eons long slumber. The world is not yet ready for their return.

In the palace, the court turns, as if to acknowledge an unseen presence looking out from between the stars. His Majesty extends his seventeenth serrated pincer out of the ornate robe, to signal the start of the show. At the tapping of the conductorís baton, the room falls silent. The curtains float to the sides, and, one by one, the actors take their places on the stage. A hunched figure begins the narration, while the veiled audience listens attentively. A great cacophony is heard from the exits, and a pale, eyeless shape slithers towards the actors, robed in their skin. The proceedings are interrupted by the Chamberlain loudly complaining about the flatworm that had become lodged in his thorax during the meal, and he is subsequently sent to his quarters with a good lashing for all the trouble he has made, and is not able to view the rest of the play.

After that, the evening goes smoothly, and I am invited to bed with the Court Mistress, where she makes great use of her chelicerae. Thoroughly tired and beginning to molt, she dozes off to sleep. I am unable to get comfortable on the writhing young, and instead I opt to fix myself a glass of warm water, but when I arrive at the well, who do I see but the Chamberlain! He had apparently snuck out of his chamber dressed in the shed skin of the Court Mistress, who was going through a period of dermal peeling that had left her skin red and sensitive. I voice my opinion that this is very inconsiderate to her skin mites, but he responds that he makes a better home for them anyways.

Several Guards appear, and click their claws to ask what we are doing out at the well so early in the morning. They pause for some moments to look up into the reddish sky, faintly perceiving some vast shape beating its membranous wings. Shrieking across the dim, cloudy aether, its many claws and legs tucked tightly into its fleshy hide, it swoops down, sinking its sharp mandible spikes deep into the sinewy flesh of one of the guards. It carries the corpse aloft into the dark sky, from which it does not reemerge. The remaining Guards, now greatly startled, retreat back into the palace. I look across the landscape, watching over the mountains formed over the bodies of the sleeping gods, seeing the deep red sunrise. I hold up my hands to block the light, forgetting again that I donít have any. I shut my eyes to the growing dawn, and the world turns red. There is a metallic, pained groan in the air, and something shifts under the soil. They are rising again. We rule now where they ruled once, and they will rule again where we rule now. They have stayed inactive for eons in their fortresses, safe from our rule, but now they awaken again. The cycle is repeating.