Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Iron Quill - Moth

This is my Iron Quill, a monthly Malifaux fan fiction competition, entry so far. I'd like to preface this by saying the story is a little grim. If it's too grim let me know. In fact, I'd like all the feedback I can get. Thanks for reading.


 “You’re at the doorway to a brave new world, on the precipice of something truly mesmerising. Don’t fight it.”

 Lauren squirmed against her bindings. She did not know what she would do if she had actually managed to break free, but all she could think of was escape. The coarse heavy rope chaffed against her naked flesh. Her jaw ached from biting down on the foetid rags binding her mouth open and silent. Bloodshot and teary eyes darted around the room desperately searching for something she could use, some way to get out.

The room was dark. Very dark. Underground most likely. There were no windows. The only light was blocked by her. She tried not to think about her. Some way out, focus on some way out. Then there was that noise, like someone leafing through sheets of paper but all around her. What was that. Focus on a way out. There was nothing. She could see nothing. She broke down into tears. The foul lady approached her, one claw-like hand rubbed its calloused knuckles over Lauren’s cheek. The young girl wretched when she realised that it felt like leather.

 “We know why you cry, little caterpillar. We have watched you. We know the pain that gnaws at you.” The crone had a hiss to her voice, but it was soft. She was clearly trying to be comforting. Lauren swallowed the vomit lest she choke. “We know your pain, little caterpillar. Yes, We know.”


The girl grabbed her meagre possessions as she fled the howling of the people on the train. They had attacked her. Ripped her clothes from her. Beaten her. They were going to kill her. She had barely escaped with her life, leaping off the train into the dirt of this strange new world. She had come through the breach for a new life, a new chance, exciting new discoveries. Now, before she had even stepped onto Malifaux station, she had been chewed up and spat out under the ominous glare of the alien night sky.  She had stumbled out and found a small pond shadowed by a gnarled black tree. She drank rapidly, not wanting to know the taste, but paused when she finally willed herself to open her eyes. There was just enough moon light for her to look at her reflection in the pool of water. The ripples broke the image but as she put her hand to her face she could how she had become hideous. Her immaculate features had contorted, as if the breach had made them nothing more than swirling liquid and spat them back out again. Her soft seductive skin had been stretched as all her bones had reshaped becoming sinewy and hairy like a pig. Her once perfect smile broken by elongated teeth that had broken through her lips. Once she had been able to seduce any man, now they believed her to be some daemonic fiend. Her shrill howl broke the stillness of night as she smashed her gnarly fists into her own reflection. Her tears spilt down her face to be drunk by Malifaux’s thirsty earth.

Lauren had never known pain like this. Her whole body shook as the blade sliced slowly into the flesh of her back. She howled impotently into the rag in her mouth has layers of skin were peeled away. All the while the woman told her story.

“We all change eventually dear. We saw you look into the mirror and see those tell-tale signs of age”

Lauren could not tell, but she thought the creature was smiling as it looked into her face and tapped her nose with one claw. She almost forgot the pain when she stared into her eyes, bottomless pits of blackness and pain. A strange purity was in there, like a consciousness buried under basic necessity. They didn’t look human. The ‘woman’ sighed as she resumed her work, pinning the skin to the blood-stained work bench.

“What is a courtesan without her looks, little caterpillar? How would your clientele changed as your beauty twisted into something else? As you got uglier so would they, little dove.”

 “You’re not going to stick it in that are you?” the smaller man spat as he stared down at the creature pinned down in the alley way.

 “It’s got all the right bits, ‘an it? Besides I’m not going to look at its face” The larger man landed another back handed strike on the female and then stuffed a hessian sack over her head. The woman sobbed as Malifaux defiled her once again.

 When the men had finished with her they chucked her into a nearby cellar. Killing her was unnecessary, Malifaux would do that job soon enough. The woman coughed up blood as she came to, moaning and writhing in pain and self-hatred. When would death finally release her from pain? It had already made her a monster, what else did it want?

 When she had gathered enough energy to drag herself from the floor she found that she was not alone. Millions of moths surrounded her, the ones that she had disturbed fluttered around her like a living whirlwind. Eventually their frenzy settled and one landed on her hand. She stared at it for a long time. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The more she looked at the creature the more she saw how it was dissimilar from the earth-side creature. Its wings were the colour of blood, the dark blood the oozed from a fatal wound. Its total size, including wingspan was twice as large as her malformed hands. It did not have antenna, but instead eyes. Deep black eyes. After what may have been an age the moth fluttered away, graceful as it moved between air-currents, and finally landed on a small podium. As her eyes followed the moth they landed on the book.
It beckoned her.

She finally dragged herself over. She clutched the hide-bound pages to her bosom. It gave her a strength she had not known for a long time. She did not leave that cellar for weeks. Consumed.


 “Do you see now? Do you see what a gift I have given you? No longer a little caterpillar, no, now my graceful beautiful moth. We have changed you. We have made it so you will always be beautiful. You have done a great thing today, you have helped take one more step towards eternal beauty. One day I will be as wonderful as you, my pretty little moth.”


“Fascinating.” Doctor McMorning batted the odd moth away with a back of his hand as he stared down at the corpse in the basement. “Do you know how long it’s been here?”

The guardsman wiped his mouth as he gradually lifted his head from the pool of vomit. “Sorry about that. Sir.”

“Really, is the guild made of nothing but ignorant farmers these days?” It didn’t sound the sort of question he was meant to answer but McMorning had leant into his face and his eyes were staring directly into his. The fire in his eyes was almost more than his already unsettled stomach could bare.

“No, Sir?”


“Well what, Sir?”

“How long has the body been here!”

“Apparently the woman was a young girl called Lauren, worked at a nearby… umm… house of companionship. Been missing about 2 weeks.”

“What a waste.”

“Yes, Sir. Poor girl. She seemed sweet… not that I knew her or nothing, Sir”

“What?” McMorning turned round, seemingly bamboozled by the guardsman’s awkwardness, “Oh yes, shame about the girl, whatever, but if you look carefully” McMorning prodded the body with his pencil and then put it into his mouth. The Guardsman wretched but was glad when he didn’t seem to have any more content in his stomach to lose, “there is absolutely no decomposition. Despite all of these annoying creatures flapping about us there is even not any creatures making her into a feast. Look at this aswell,” McMorning continue unabated as the guardsman proved himself wrong and buried the evidence in an increasingly large pile of vomit, “these wings have not simply been grafted on, they are actually made of the woman herself. Remarkable.” McMorning looked around the room and found a small music box on the side. He flicked the lid open and wagged his finger slightly faster than the tiny tune that rang out, as if attempting to make it get to its point, before he noticed the picture on the inside of the lid.

“I believe I have discovered the culprit, guardsman farmer-pants. It appears to be Maggie Strudel, someone quite famous in my field who had travelled to Malifaux to shadow my work. She never made it, had a bit of an ‘accident’ on the way, apparently turned into some vicious creature or something. Such a shame." McMorning trailed off and continued prodding the corpse, muttering things like 'so much potential' and tutting as he went. Eventually the guardsman plucked up the courage to intervene.


"What? Oh, you're still here. Looks like I will need this body and all of the evidence taken back to my lab on the double, also it goes without saying that Maggie needs to be found.”

“I’d appreciate it, Sir, if I did not have to be the one to take the body, Sir, it just seems to turn me the wrong way.” The guardsman held his hat in his hand as he pleaded, slowly rotating it.

“What? Oh yes, yes, yes. Well volunteered! Grab yourself a couple of stout fellows and head into the quarantine zone then, that’s the best place to find her." McMorning shook his head as he looked down at the growing damp patch in the guardsman’s britches. Why did people think the dead were so horrible when it was the living that made all of the nauseating fluids?

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