's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Those Words Like Wind "

Submitted by Connor Drescher (

 My name is Asana, once Katahina, Death-Priest of the Order of Sha’Kriss Ala.

 I don’t remember much from before I arrived in Ros, nor how. Sometimes, I think to myself, perhaps I was born of that place, A child of the wastes, a product of the tearing of this world they called Dryth. And yet, I was alien in that town, not just because of the strange blue horns, curving above my head, my language, nor the stump of my left arm or my near infantile youth, but my skin. My smooth, youthful, skin was a strange new sight to the wrinkled, scarred, old-leather faces of the wasteland town of Ros. Their singular nostrils twitched around me, envious of my youth and my health. And after their lives in the wastes, I cannot blame them.

 Ros had high black walls that kept them safe from the harsh winds of the desert wastes, as well as from raiders. It stood twenty feet above their tallest buildings, but it also enclosed and limited them, but this was not an issue. There were signs that Ros had been a thriving community at one point, one that may have once struggled against the confines of its walls, but now it was nearly desolate, those still residing in the town kept themselves inside, most too feeble to do much. They seemed to let trash sit about, and rarely cleaned their buildings, which were covered in dust and sand. There was a constant musty stench to the town, subtle and unobtrusive, but nonetheless distinct. It was a cold, featureless scent.But they were kind, giving me shelter in the high walls of their village. Others in their position would have killed me, for my flesh, for my bone, or for my blood in dark rituals of those left of the Living Gods.

 But they knew they couldn’t hold me for long. They couldn’t sustain another mouth to feed for more than a few months. The wastes were yielding less every season, and those still able to hunt were growing more feeble by the day. They couldn’t use me, fast and youthful as I was, and they couldn’t help me for long. So they decided I’d have to go to the city of Goron, to find an orphanage.

 But their caravanner had died a year ago when a Plague came to town, his body burned outside. So they prayed. They prayed for me.

 Their prayers were answered.


 He stood above me, tall, broad shoulders that held a strange head, totally masked by a symmetrical white helmet, nearly featureless, save the long black stripe that swiped around the back of the head, and down the face and broke at his mouth, and a black triangle between where I thought his eyes may be. He was intimidating in his black cloak, the uniform of the honor-bound justicar priests they told me once protected the lands from evil. His mace hung at the belt at his waist, heavy, cold black steel that was blunted and scarred in use. Death Priest, they called him. “What is your name, girl,” He said to me, his voice baritone, his words were well-formed, like an educated man. He spoke my language much better than any in the town.

 “Katahina,” I said, as that is what those in Ros called me. My tiny hand tightened around my dress nervously, the stump of my left arm hugged close to my body.

 “Where do you hail from,” he said.

 “I don’t know.”

 His head looked up and around, supposedly scanning his dusty surroundings again. I could never tell with him, hidden behind that mask.

 He looked back down. This time I could tell he was looking at me. “I am Orobus,” he said, “Death-Priest. I’ll be taking you to Goron when my business here is done,” I nodded, and he held out his hand, wrapped in a black leather glove. My hand went into his and he lead me through the town. He took me to the burial ground, and blessed the dead, singing strange hymns in a language that sounded more like wind than words. The haunting hymns paralyzed me and for a moment, I thought it his divine magic, keeping me still.

 When the hymns were through, he took me to the high walls of Ros, and the gates opened for us and a cold, chilling wind raced in from the hot colors of the wasteland. Flat reddish land, the horizon obscured by a column of dust and steam, billowing over the flats. He looked back at me before we left the gate. I tightened my grasp on his hand, and we stepped out into that orange colored sky.

 Within a day he worried we may be lost. Goron was no more than three days from Ros, he told me. We came to an upright stone in the evening of the first day. We sat away from the wind, sheltered by the red rock. He told me that this stone was no more than an hour’s walk away from Ros, yet it had taken all day to reach this place. “The World is changing its face,” he told me.

 “Why?” I asked.

  “Any number of reasons. Perhaps the Worship of Dead Gods and Akriss have left its print on Dryth.”

 We came to a place where the road simply ended, but we walked on. Sometimes, I thought I heard a voice in the wind, sad and pleading. But it would vanish the moment I turned my head.

 We ate of the Yunka bread. It was a ring-like creature that would grow a spongy food when placed in the ground or the flesh. When he put it into the ground, and it grew, it was a little tough or sometimes crumbly, like stale bread, and it tasted salty. I would learn the taste well. When we were lucky, we would find a tree, and the Yunka bread would taste bitter, but also sweet and refreshing. But when we were very lucky, we’d find a body to put it into. Even rotten, the Yunka could grow savory material from meat. He taught me to tear off pieces around the ring of teeth of the Yunka.

 He kept it tucked in the skirt of his coat, underneath his belt.

 He didn’t eat the Yunka bread that often, but when he did, he took off his helmet, revealing his blue skin and passionate eyes, gold in hue, like shining coins floating in a calm sea.  The moment he was done eating, he put his mask back on, as though ashamed. I remember wondering why. Compared to the scarred red-brown faces of men and women of Ros, he was beautiful.

 He carried little with him. He carried the Yunka, of course, and his mace, an object incredibly heavy for its size. He carried a compass, which rarely worked. He carried a series of small scrolls and tiny worn books. They contained prayers, legends, and hymns from the days when the wastes were smaller, fewer gods were dead, and the people of the world were not so desperate for flesh. He’d sit by the fire, some nights, pouring over the scrolls, reading and rereading, finding some peace in them. He read from within his helmet. Even without eyes, the mask allowed him to see better than most, as I would later learn. But at the time, it was alien to me. He had a deadly stillness when he read, like a sad, worn statue.

He terrified me in the oddest way. I was told to trust him, but the people in Ros spoke of him in hushed reverent tones. Dressed in black, and that featureless face, I could rarely guess his motives. But he was my guide, and I was only a very meek child. I kept with him, as I  had no one else, and the fury of the wastes terrified me much more than he frightened me.

 It took us more than a week to reach Goron.


 The high, long walls of Goron frothed with smoke. Cracked and chipped towers poked above the sea of black. Men’s skins hung over what was left of the wall. The castle gates hung open, one of the doors lied on the ground, off its hinges. Orobus hid us behind a rocky outcropping. We ate Yunka bread while he decided what to do. His face stared in the direction of the city. I was worried about his decision.

 I couldn’t look at Goron. Now I almost judge it foolish, having seen much worse, but the flailings of the skins in the wind looked like bloody red ghosts, arms grasping, pining for something they could not quite reach. I feared that place, and when he said we must go in, I cried and became angry at him, and almost threw a tantrum, but his featureless face seemed stern, and I went quietly.

 “We must go in, Katahina,” he said. “I will protect you, but I have to help the people left.” I wanted to stay while he went in, or head back to Ros, but he would not let me. He knew, I understand now, that anything may happen to me the second he let me out of his sight. I would very soon become another defenseless victim of the wasteland.

 The city had the sickly smell of rotten flesh, a sweet, sour scent, like fruit left out in the sun, and the smell of smoke, which clung inside my nose. I walked so close to Orobus that I couldn’t help but bump into him constantly. He was silent, and occasionally kept me steady with the hand that didn’t grip his mace, still laced to his belt. My hands tightened around his coat.

 He heard voices from behind the next tower, and quickly hid us behind a sheet of stone from a crumbled tower.  Three scarred, naked men came out from behind one of the towers. One had removed his hand to replace it with a twisted barb of metal sticking out of a stub on his skinny arm. They all were deformed,  and had self made scars across their bodies. One didn’t have eyes, only a twitching jaw, constantly chewing at nothing.

 They carried clubs and gladii, and they spoke to each other in a slurring slang, except for the eyeless one, who simply moaned, and occasionally clattered his teeth.

 They walked to a crack in the tower, and pulled out a woman in hiding by her long Auburn hair and raised their swords. Orobus snapped at me, “Stay,” and in two leaps, jumped over the slab of stone. Terrified, yet enthralled, I poked my eyes over the slab. He was already within ten feet of the men, or monsters, or spawns of the wastes, whatever they may have been. Positioned in his right hand was his mace, and from his left, leapt a bolt of red light which struck the closest one in the leg, separating his knee from his calf, putting him onto the ground immediately.

 The one with the hook on its arm stepped forward, raising its club. Before it could make its first move, Orobus disarmed it with a strike of his mace. The thing’s face then shattered against the hard steel of the mace, killing it instantly. The eyeless one began to cackle. Orobus did not see why yet. He looked down. The one whose leg he had blown off had thrust it’s gladius into the chest of the woman, its last taste of murder before it died. The thing on the ground laughed at the Death-Priest. Orobus, though he didn’t seemed to be watching, ducked from the eyeless one’s attack. Still crouching, there was  something like a gentle clap of thunder, as two bolts of spells killed the mutants. The eyeless one fell backward like a dead tree, thumped against the ground. Then, over the body of the woman, he said those words like wind, as I had heard before, now without melody.

 Then the most peculiar thing I had seen in my short life happened. The corpse spoke back in those windy words.

He stood up, the wind blowing at the skirt of his coat. He just stood there for a few moments, regarding the corpse. A gentle hymn, in those wind-like words, escaped from him after many moments. He looked back at me, in the middle of the hymn, checking on me. For a second, I thought I could see past the mask, the shame and remorse on his face, I saw that he felt that he was careless, that he blamed himself.

 We went down the streets in silence. I pressed close to him. We came to a long wide street that was filled with wooden debris, chairs, cribs, tables, and cabinets, thrown into the street, maybe as a barricade, or perhaps the mutants simply had yet to set that area ablaze.

 Three crucifixes stood at the end of the street, the top of a nearly featureless building billowed with smoke above  them. The crucifixes had bundles of bones in them, as if they split open the chests of the former victims, leaving them open, so new victims could suffer inside.

 As I lifted my leg over a plank of wood, there was a sudden sharp howling, a mix of both animal howling, and the howling of wind. Mutants ran out of the buildings, their sickly malnourished forms fled in panic. Orobus seemed to think that they were running toward us at first, and shoved me down behind a desk. But they simply ran past him, tripping on the wood sometimes, trying to leap.

 True terror came when we saw what they were running from. Four huge forms, nearly as large as the buildings themselves, twisted wildly out from the buildings. They looked like bundles of glowing white spiderwebs, simply outlined, as they floated through the sky. They were wiry forms, with featureless knobby  heads, twisting  hair came from their heads, long and thin. Their wiry arms twisted around like their heads, in a surreal choppy quality. They were clothed in a ragged cloak that hung off their shoulders, and hid the rest of their bodies, that is, if they had any.

 It was from them that the weirding howl came. The wind picked up before them, kicking up dust, ash, and sheets of wood. His coat flailed wildly as he raised up his hands, open palms held out at them. Once again came those words like wind, as he belted out a new haunting, beautiful hymn. The arms of the flailing giants became still, and began to rest at their sides, as the wind died down. The four seemed calm now… and in little pings, like an old kalimba, they began to sing along.  My heart stopped, not in fear, but in...admiration of beauty.

 It was that moment, I think, that I came to trust Orobus the Death-Priest.

He sang the hymn three times, and every time, the forms seemed to shrink just a little. Eventually, His singing came to a stop, and all four of those beings turned around from where they came, phasing through buildings, and after a few moments, I remember a gentle flash of white light from the distance.

 It was deathly still after that. He stood  there, swaying from effort and emotion.

 We took shelter in a room in one of the buildings the forms had passed through. He put us in a room we crawled over barricades of wood to get into. What looked like what used to be a housepet sat dead on the floor, blood splattered in a straight line, no doubt a freak’s meal.

 Orobus put the Yunka into the animal. As we waited for the bread to grow, Orobus told me to get some rest. He leaned against a square open window, the only light in the room. “How did you do that,” I asked him quietly after a few moments, timid, like a mouse, “Those words,”. He looked back at me surprised, as this was the first time I addressed him. “It is Corpsespeak,” he said to me, “Those were the Hymns of the Dead… to calm the dead and summon Kerofts, to harvest the souls, and take them to The Great Flow,” I nodded, not quite understanding. “Has no one taught you the ways of the dead?” he asked me. I shook my head.

 “How did you learn this Corpsespeak?” I asked.

 “I was taught when I was a young boy,” he said and pointed at me. “A little older than you. It was part of my training…. The Hymns are beautiful, aren’t they?”

 I smiled shyly and nodded my head.

 I would have asked me to teach me the hymns, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask him for anything.

 He looked down, and sung a blessing for those on the crucifixes.

 We wandered through the ghost city, trying to find anyone both sane and alive. We came to rest in the shadow of a building after Orobus got into a fight with a number of mutants. A fire burned someplace nearby, so the smell of smoke was particularly pungent. Eventually, I asked him why we were here. “Avenge the dead. Protect the living innocent. Kill the wicked.” he answered without a beat. “That is what I pledged to do when I received my mask. It is the foundation of my Order. I intend to keep my pledge.” I nodded, and there was an awkward silence.

 “What were those things of white, Death-Priest?” I asked him, coughing through the smoke. “Ghosts?”

 “Something of the like,” he said, not entirely sure of the answer, or at the very least, not able to explain in terms I would understand.

 He sniffed the air, and looked around the corner, seeing a pile of smoldering bodies. He sighed, began another hymn in Corpsespeak. I was captured by the rapturous sounds of his hymns, the serene sounds of the song made the corpses, the ghosts, the flailing skins and fire all melt away. I found my head swaying to the sound.

 He hesitantly placed his hand on my horn, keeping me still. I looked up at him, worried that I had upset him. Soon, he finished the hymn, and looked down to me.

 “...Do not dance to a hymn.” he said simply, yet with a strange sense of longing, or regret, as though he did indeed want me to dance. Though his mask guarded his emotion, his voice could not.

 “Dance?” I said.

 “...Yes...You may enjoy hymns,” he told me, “But keep still. It is improper to dance to hymns,” he said. He had a strange code, I would learn, a fragment of the old world he came from.

 “Are there songs that I may dance to?” I asked.

 “Yes…” he said quietly, seeming to remember something very far away. “Come along,” he said to me, and we continued to walk down the streets. “Orobus, tell me of the Death Priests,” I said, and took his hand.

 He paused, in thought I think.

 “We were fighters,” he said, “And priests. We protected people from those who would hurt them.”

 “Were?” I asked, “What happened to them?”

 “It is the way of the world, Katahina, as time passes, things fall apart.”

 “What happened here, Orobus? What happened to Goron,” I asked in a hushed, scared whisper.

 He paused. “They were murdered Katahina,” he said, “by wicked men.”

 “I don’t want that to happen to me, Orobus.”

 He paused, much longer this time.

 “I promise I won’t let that happen Katahina.” he said, solemnly, soberly.


 “I vow.”

 I smiled up at him, and he looked at me for a while as we walked, before he slowly turned to look ahead.


 Those streets were quiet. We turned over stones and piles of wood, looking for those who survived. We found some dying, who Orobus could not heal. He prayed over them, until they passed on, and sung their hymns. We found other barbarians, which Orobus killed on sight. It seemed most of them left the city, moving on to a new settlement like a plague of locusts.The stragglers met Orobus’s mace. I hid in cracks, or underneath rubble while he killed.  I remember he spoke to several corpses, but it surprised me when he spoke to a group of dead mutants in that weirding language. Only one of out of the five spoke back. Orobus and him talked for a few minutes, but Orobus sung him no hymns. As Orobus walked away, he groggily whined something back to him, pleading, I thought, for a blessing.

 After three days, Orobus decided we would leave the city. He was adamant about travelling east. He said the men were traveling south, and had come from the northwest. “They won’t find much not already squandered,” he said.

So we became wanderers, he and I, through the wastes. When I did not hold his hand, I walked close to him. He did not like it when I walked behind him, even a little bit. He prefered to keep me at least within his peripheral vision.

 On the first few days, not much happened. We wandered, we rested, we wandered, we rested, on constant repeat. Sometimes we found small abandoned buildings, full of dust and dirt and cobwebs. We hid there from strange storms, and when we came out, the world seemed different, like a whole different place.

 Some days, when we walked a particularly long or hard way, or when the Yunka bread was less nutritious, he would let me ride atop his shoulders.  While we walked, He would sing me songs, and sometimes I might pat my chest to the beat, Or bob my head, or shuffle my feet as we walked. His songs were either in languages I did not know, or about very sad but sweet things, like lost lovers and homes left behind. Some though, my favorite, praised and revered heroes and great acts. Singing them for me seemed to make him happy. I feel that perhaps, before I came along, he had no reason to sing. He had a lovely voice. It was deep and sad, textured by age.

 A couple weeks in, a thick fog swept in. I thought I saw strange shapes dance in the fog, and stuck close to Orobus. His voice seemed to echo in the mist.

 Perhaps three days we wandered in the thick fog. Sometimes the air was thick, humid, and hot, making me sleepy and my small blue dress stick to my skin. Other times it was cold and wet, making me shiver, and the air became thin. The Yunka bread grew bitter and watery in the soil under the fog.

 On the fourth day, we came to a strange cluster of fleshy organic tubes, snaking out in all directions in front of us. The strange tubes were a sickly green, and bulged and throbbed in some places, or tangled with each other. They stank of paste, and something fleshy and slightly rotten and , a thick smell that lingered around the ring of your nostrils.

 Orobus led us around the fleshy ropes, his suspicions aroused. The ropes coiled around what appeared to be slumped bodies, now little more than piles of meat on the ground. The tubes came out of the bodies, and wandered across the ground, connecting to other bodies, forming a strange web.

 We heard strange cries of putrid black birds above our heads.

 “Do not step on the tubes,” he said, a bite of frustration or suspicion in his voice. He led me carefully through the webs of tubes.

 He noticed a thick collection of tubes, winding somewhere. We followed them in the fog, to find the green organs leading and coalescing around a large crucifix. They wound up the crucifix to a large pulsing red figure, like a blood gorged mite. It beat on its crucifix, like a dark heart in the wastes. A strange sigil, written in flame, held above the heart, and it hurt my eyes to look at it. I saw Orobus go rigid at the sight of the monstrosity. While I crumbled in fear, he writhed in anger. His hand tightened around his mace, his muscles tensed. His leg drew out in a fighting stance, and he summoned his might, a powerful presence whipped around me, as he growled words that hit like a tidal wave, a language like stone against steel, and an orb of red-gold light formed between his fists. The heart thing up on the cross hissed like a snake, and pulsated faster and faster, like the tension in my own chest. I saw strange forms emerge from the fog in the distance. I tried to warn Orobus, but my voice was caught in my throat, held there by terror.

 Finally, He thrust his clenched fists at the being on the cross. The red-gold orb broke into a ring, and a dazzling ray shot from his hands, striking the creature. The thing screamed on the cross as a chunk of it sizzled and popped. Bones in a soup of pink sludge drooled from its now gaping wound. As the sludge hit the ground, it erupted and morphed into writhing humanoid forms, grabbing at the air, before collapsing to a steaming pool.

 But those forms in the fog closed in around us, as the thing on the cross screamed, more seemed to come out from the fog. They were tall, thin, and grey. Many lacked eyes, but most had toothy, gnashing mouths on their knobby heads.  Within moments, we were surrounded. Orobus picked up his mace, and cast  spells into the crowd, but they swarmed around us. I cried out to him, through the grasping hands, But I was pulled along, away from him, and it came to where I could see naught but blackness in the density of the swarm of monsters.

 It felt like hours, I was pulled, tugged, carried, grabbed, and dragged. I screamed so hard and so long, I could not hear it myself. Eventually, one of them spoke in a thick surly accent, complaining about my screaming, And took a club to the side of my head. I heard laughter before I blacked out. For the next few hours, I bobbed in and out of consciousness. I saw other people in the crowd, screaming, struggling against their laughing, chanting, worshiping captors. I saw before them, a mountain, that stretched into the grey sky like a warped cone of mud and  sand. There was a single black hole, perfectly circular, that they led us into. It was pitch black inside, and from there on, I became awashed in a turbulent sea of states of exhaustion, near-sleep, and unconsciousness.

 In this state of consciousness, I had a strange vision. I saw years and years of ash, and sand and stone. Black crooked giants walked the earth. Before them, destruction was wrought upon the ground, but settled underneath their feet, and behind them, the ground blossomed with green. I saw Orobus, without mask nor cloak, floating on his back in a shallow river. His ungloved hand still clenched his mask, but his golden eyes looked up towards a sky bluer than his skin and finally knew peace. He gently shut his eyes. I saw sad people wrapped in rags, dark faces and dark hands spoke of harsh lives. I saw myself, tall, beautiful, wrapped in a dark leather cloak. Before me were legions. Of enemies… Friends? I saw a sunset… Or was it a sunrise?  But it was gold and warm, and it stays with me to today. The tall version of myself turned around, and I saw that she wore the mask of the Death Priest upon her face. I knew that I had slain Akriss, unstable physical gods. I knew that I had cut down many enemies, that I had crushed many skulls underneath my boot. I knew I protected innocents from the dangers of worshiping dead gods.

 Finally, I saw myself, in a garden, a bright blue sky rose above my head. Other children laughed as I joined in their play. I knew nothing of the wastes, of the flailing skins above the walls of Goron, the Ghost-Giants hiding in their buildings, or the strange grey men who pulled me away. I knew nothing, a blissful ignorance.

 When I awoke, I felt weak like my muscles had atrophied, my mouth was dry and parched, my lips chapped. I was encased in a crusty shell that smelled like methane and organic rot. A strange goop tingled at my skin. I felt that it was absorbing me, from the inside out, and I struggled against it. The goop pulled at my skin, as I struggled and finally pulled away. It stung as I pulled, like waxing. My right hand smacked against the crust around me. It was ever so slightly translucent. I could see strange sigils glow in fire in the cave outside. I could hear yells and screams of the men who captured me. Then I focused on what was in the shell around me. My legs were still submerged, and they stung fiercely. My dress was fairly intact, but torn and worn from the grabbing and dragging of the foul creatures that took me here. Little yellow sigils floated in the air. Then I noticed something move. The sludge began to reach up towards my arm. I screamed and tried to get away from the slow moving sludge. I felt the snot green goop rise around me. I screamed long and loud enough that my throat burned like fire. The foul smelling fluid bubbled and surged upward suddenly, up to my neck.

 I thought this was it. I said a prayer that Orobus taught me, and tried to sing those wind-like words I heard so often. I could only produce a meek facsimile of those words through my sore throat. It was then when I heard a Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! I peered through the strange crust. I saw a blurry white ball above a black body. The crust around me began to crack as the body below me heaved, swinging its mace at the greasy material.

 The crystal around me shattered, the sludge poured out with me, piling onto the floor. Now overcome with exhaustion, my eyes fluttered, trying to close. I saw Orobus above me, covered in black blood. He held me to his chest, and he sobbed. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” he whispered into my shoulder. I looked over his shoulder, and I saw the outside of the crust. I saw that thing I poured out of was a construct. Something like a spider with a long claw sticking out of the top. This insides were full of near-human forms.

 Orobus stood up, holding me tightly to him. As we walked, I saw the ground littered with the strange grey men who captured me, torn apart by mace and magic. I drifted to sleep.


 Something like a  week passed like sand in a tight fist as he nursed me back to health. We sat by the fire. He sat with his feet underneath him, his hand holding a sheathed dagger in his lap.

 “I’ve come to a decision, Katahina.” he said quietly. The firewood snapped at us as if to punctuate his sentence. “I will train you in the ways of the Death Priest.”

 My hand clenched around the stub of my other arm.

 “You will learn the Corpsespeak, how to summon Kerofts, of the nature of the Gods. But most of all, I will teach you how to defend yourself,” he said. “The task of a Death Priest is a grave one, Katahina, but it is one I can no longer hold on my own.”

 He held the dagger at me, over the fire. Hesitantly, I reached out and took it, feeling its weight in my hands as the fire crackled beneath it. I placed the sheath in between my knees, and pulled out the dagger. It shimmered silver. I looked into his mask and breathed deeply, as I took a portion of the weight of the world from his shoulders.