The god Nahash sat upon his throne and looked down upon man hungrily. “I have looked at the cities of mankind, and there is one place that can quench my hunger.” He turned to the other gods and said: “To Ut-Tleru I will feast, for it is my will.” The other gods talked amongst themselves at this. Seeing their reluctance, Nahash said: “Stay out of my way.” So the gods turned away from the world…
The desert sun cast shadows off the mud houses and onto the streets of Ut-Tleru as a cloaked man walked amongst the bustling crowd. The figure strode as if hurried by some urgent business or another, making his way through the congested sandy streets. Merchants and artisans aligned the walls of the city, calling out to every citizen that walked by. The man in the cloak turned the corner and followed the walls down the thin alley to a doorway covered merely by a cloth. He entered the house. “Silili? Utu?” the man called out as he entered the home, covering the door once more with the cloth. “Who is it?” a frail voice asked from another room. The man removed his hood to reveal his young face. “It’s me, Alagar,” he replied. “I was in this part of the city, and I wanted to check on you two!” An old, hunchback man entered the room. “Gods bless you, boy,” He said as he poked around with his cane as not to run into anything, “You’re the High Priest now! You don’t have to concern yourself with old goats like us anymore.” “How could I forget you, Utu?” Alagar laughed playfully as he gently put his hand on the man’s back. “What sort of ‘High Priest’ would I be if I abandoned those who needed me, much less abandon the ones who raised me?” “You’re a good man, Alagar,” Utu replied with a smile. “Would you like some bread?” “I cannot. I am fasting.” Alagar walked Utu to a chair and helped him sit down. “Is Silili well?” “She is making as well as one of our age is able,” Utu replied. “I will go see her.” Alagar walked toward the small doorway in the back of the house. Inside, a frail and slim woman lay on a bed of straw. “Silili?” the priest whispered softly as he knelt beside her. Her eyes slowly opened. “Alagar?” “Yes! Yes, it is me.” He smiled cheerfully. “How are you doing?” The old woman began to cough, and Alagar placed his hand behind her neck to lift her so that she would not exert herself. “I’ve been praying for you,” he said as he sat beside her. “I pray every day that the gods will favor you.” Silili smiled. “You’re a good man, Alagar.” She wheezed. “I would have none greater to call my son.” Suddenly, the bells of the great temple began to toll, resounding as boisterous blasts throughout the streets of Ut-Tleru. Alagar rose and bowed to the woman who raised him. “I must go now,” he said softly, “I wish you well.” Alagar said the same to Utu as he exited the house. The life of the High Priest was not a hard one, and Alagar cared dearly for his flock. He passed through the streets and halls as he made his way to the temple.
The congregation sat astute and diligent in the temple. Alagar stood at the pulpit with his arms wide open. “My children,” his voice echoed off the temple’s stone walls, “be there with us much joy, for the gods have shown favor, and we say…” “Gods may!” the congregation chanted. Alagar held his hand to his heart. “For we know the kings are the will of the divines. May our king guide us to peace. And we say…” “Gods may!” the followers answered once more. The priest bowed his head. “Let us offer up praise.” The congregation bowed their heads and repeated: “Let us.” “Gods that be, may we be in peace and tranquil, for you have shown us favor. And we say…” The people spoke in unison, “Gods may.” “Thank you,” Alagar said genuinely as he stepped down from the pulpit. The congregation dispersed and slowly began filtering through the exits. Alagar walked casually to his quarters in the back of the temple. He placed his hand on the door and pushed. “Your Holiness!” a stern voice from behind startled him. “Yes?” Alagar turned and faced the man. In front of him stood one of the king’s men. “Your Holiness, the king has summoned you. You must come this way immediately.” “Of course.” Alagar softly sighed and followed the man.
The servant walked Alagar through the brown brick walls of the king’s palace to a door. King Ut-Tleru X sat at his son's bedside, his head in one hand and his sons hand in the other. He rubbed his son's hand with his own, whimpering from trying to conceal his grief. His son, Ut-Tleru XI, lay pale upon his bead of silk. “Your Highness!” a servant spoke from behind the door. “I have brought the High Priest, as you commanded!” “Only he may enter!” the king commanded in a harsh tone. “Return to your duties!” The door opened, and Alagar entered. The room was unlit save for the moonbeams that entered through the window. “Your Majesty, how are you?” Alagar began, “I hope you are we—” “He’s dead!” the king snapped, interrupting the priest’s welcome. “Just as the dream said.” “Dream?” Alagar asked. “Nahash appeared to me in a dream.” the king said in a low, almost laughing tone. “He told me my son would die.” The king stood and moved to the window. “But he will live again.” “Sire,” Alagar said softly, “you cannot cheat death.” The moon cast over the king's face revealed crescent grin. “He will!” the king said in a shrill tone. “I know how he can.” the king walked closer to the priest and whispered as walked past Alagar speedily. “Bring my soldiers!” King Ut-Tleru X called out as he rushed down the hall. Soldiers in the hallway flocked to the livid king, kneeling as they reached him. “Bring me young and old and take them to the temple,” he laughed, “there will be propitiation!”
Blasts of war-horns sounded as soldiers rushed throughout the dusty city of Ut-Tleru. A woman cradled her son as soldiers busted open their doors and beat her husband. Screams resounded and filled the streets as soldiers bound and threw the citizens’ children onto wagons. The people wept and cried for the soldiers to stop, but as he said, none can deny the divine king’s edict. The soldiers rushed the wagons of the restrained into the temple.
“Your Highness, this is madness!” Alagar pled through tears as he heard the cries of his sheep in their night of terror. “Sire, why? For the death of your son? This is evil!” The king’s eyes turned to the priest. Alagar could see the hint of lunacy within them, a tint of wild inhibition, wide-eyed and lost. “Bind him by his hands, as well!” the king raved, pointing at Alagar. The men stopped and looked at Alagar for a moment, reluctant. “Bind him!” the king screeched. The soldiers rushed toward their priest and tied him up.
The people covered the temple floor, screaming, and crying. The king and Alagar stood at the altar. “Now, priest.” he began as he cut Alagar free. “Summon him! Summon your gods! Summon Nahash!” “I will not! This is madness! This is lunacy!” The king drew a soldier’s sword and placed it at the priest's throat. “Do it!” “I will not!” “Then I will!” Alagar yelled as he felt the cool blade slice through his right arm. Warm blood trickled down to his hands. The king took the bloodied blade and threw it on the altar. “Oh Nahash! I have much to offer you!” he cried out. Suddenly, the air became thin, the night became black, and black flame exploded from the altar. The king closed his eyes at the brilliance of the flame. An elegant man stood before them, with long blond hair. “What man has the right to summon Nahash?” The god smiled, revealing sharp, jagged teeth. The king pointed at Nahash “You took my son!” The god raised his hand and waved it. The king writhed in agony as he began to sift away like sand: his hands, then his body, then his head as it lay upon the floor. “Your Majesty!” Alagar cried. He turned to Nahash and bowed. “Oh, great god Nahash, please spare us.” The god grinned and raised his hands. “No.” Alagar was suddenly alert. “But it was only the king’s sin! We have done nothing!” The god lowered his head to the priest. “But who do you think orchestrated this episode, hmm?” Alagar’s eyes widened. “You caused this to happen? How?” “I made the king’s son die; I made the king drunk with fury; I made the king gather the people so that I could feast upon them. They’ve been good servants. Delicious ones, too.” The priest felt a grim shiver over his whole body. “Stay here.” the god commanded. Alagar felt panic as he heard the cries of the children and townsfolk. He could hear them all at once as their screams culminated into an unintelligible noise. He knew he had led them falsely; he thought he’d done them well, but now; now he knew he was a pawn all along. Alagar’s anguish was deafening. He felt himself rise. He could feel the beating of his heart, the rage of it all. Lightning struck in front of him, blasting a hole in the top of the temple. He looked up, and the Nahash was before him, laughing. He could see the blood of the people dripping from the deity’s mouth. “Are you going to eat me, too?” Nahash grinned. “No. You’ve been a good servant, the best servant of all.” Alagar felt the deity’s finger pierce through the cut on his arm. He watched as a dark, bluish, color painted his skin. His arm seared with pain as it contorted into a claw-like form. Alagar screamed. “You will walk among the beasts,” Nahash laughed, “no more will you call yourself a man, for you are now a beast.” Alagar lay on the ground holding his bleeding arm. Then, all went black.
Nightmares taunted Alagar’s sleep. In his dreams, he could hear the screams of the townsfolk; he could taste their blood on his lips. He opened his restless eyes. “You’re awake, it seems.” A rugged voice startled him as he sat up. “Who’s there?” Alagar cried as he looked around. Alagar turned to see a silver wolf sitting not too far from him. “You speak?” he said in an alerted tone. The wolf grinned and laughed an unsettling laugh. “No. It is not I who can speak, but you who can listen.” “Listen?” Suddenly, Alagar became alarmed and aware of his throbbing arm; he held it as he cringed in pain. “My arm,” he said through gritted teeth, “it hurts! It’s deformed!” The wolf laughed. “Of course it is.” “Did he-?” Alagar’s fingers dug into his blue arm, causing his nails to break the skin. “Did Nahash do this?” “Yes. Did you not hear the god’s words? You’re a beast now, just like me.” Alagar stood faintly and scanned the temple. Bodies of humans, half-eaten, decorated the floor. The stench of the rotting flesh was pervasive as it permeated throughout the desecrated temple. “Not really an appetizing sight, even for an animal,” the wolf commented, “I have no hunger for rotten flesh.” He paused. “I’m Ur, by the way.” “You have a name?” “Fool,” Ur scoffed, “thinking just as a man would. Thinking that only he is worthy of names.” “I am Alagar.” “I don’t care.” Ur brushed off the priest’s introduction. “Tell me, what will you do now? Now that you’re a beast?” Alagar looked around him. All he saw was death and loss. “I don’t know.” “Fool.” the wolf began to walk away. “What do you do?” he asked Ur. “Scavenge.” “I will go with you. I have nothing left here.” The wolf laughed sinisterly. “Very well.” The sun set red over the hills as the two walked through the desolated city. Mutilated bodies littered the streets. Alagar took a cloth from a doorway and used it to wrap his deformed arm. “Why would he do this?” questioned Alagar as he scanned the savage ruins of the city. “Because he’s a god,” Ur answered nonchalantly, “and a selfish one at that.” “But gods are supposed to love their creations!” “You suppose too much.” “Is it such a far-fetched thought?” “It’s not far-fetched, priest; it’s blind. Gods will do what gods will do. What’s left is not their concern. Only their desires matter.” Alagar lowered his head. “But why?” “There is no ‘why’ here; there is only what is.” The two walked in silence for some time after that, the wolf leading as Alagar wearily walked behind him. “Are you tired?” Ur asked, surprising Alagar with his thoughtfulness. “I am.” “You should rest, then.” “What will you do?” “Afraid of being alone,” the wolf taunted. “I will do what I wish.” “I don’t know where to go from here. You’re my only guidance right now. Would you really leave me in my confusion?” Ur stopped and exhaled. “I suppose it will be fun to watch you.” The wolf grinned scarily. “I will stay.” “Then we will rest here?” “Sure, I guess.” Alagar fell as he tried to sit without using his arms since he held his clothed right arm with his left. Ur laughed as the priest plopped onto the ground suddenly. “You laugh at my pain?” “Yes. Your pain is funny.” For some reason, Alagar sensed a hint of friendliness in those words. “Well, I’m glad I can make you laugh.” “Do you know how to make fire? “I’m a priest, not a woodsman,” Alagar said, almost laughing. “Then you will sleep in the cold of the desert.” “I’ll just get more door cloths.” “You’re a clever animal.” Ur jeered as he walked away. “Sleep. I will be back by morning.” Ur said as he walked away.
The sun had set; the city was silent save the whistle of the winds. Alagar observed the lifeless settings as he walked the barren streets. The booths for the vendors were empty; the windows were dark; even the moon was brighter than the once flourishing Ut-Tleru. Alagar knew where he was going, though he didn’t want to realize it. He knew he was going to Utu and Silili’s house. Though, he knew what would await him there. The tight alleys of the city seemed wide and open without the crowds to fill them. The desert wind was cold and coarse. Alagar made his way to the house. There was no light from inside. Alagar’s heart rose to his throat. “Utu? Silili?” Alagar called as he entered the abode. He entered, his eyes widened, and he fell to his knees. A long wail erupted from his throat, and he held his head in his left hand. In front of him, Utu and Silili lay half-eaten, unrecognizable clumps of flesh and bone. Blood painted the walls. Alagar gagged at the putrid stench. Flies and other bugs swarmed all around the room. It was too much. Alagar rose and stumbled out of the doorway. He could hear himself whimpering. It was if he were in a nightmare. He walked dazedly, as if drunken. Alagar could feel himself slipping away. He stopped finally and fell to his knees. He looked up at the moon, screamed in eldritch terror, then passed out from exertion and shock.
Alagar dreamed he was surrounded by black silhouettes. They had no eyes, yet he knew they watched him. He knew who they were. They were the people of the town. He could hear them yelling, pointing at him. “It’s the priest! The one who misled his people!” a gruff voice pierced his slumber, mixing into his dream. The priest opened his eyes to see three large men surrounding him, blades in hand. “Who are you?” Alagar yelled, struggling to move, realizing quickly that he was bound in chains. “We’re just some men from the country who heard about your little disaster.” laughed one. “We’re gonna sell you into slavery, so just bear with us,” taunted another. “Besides, if it were just me, I’d slit your throat right now!” said the third as he held his blade to Alagar’s face. “I had nothing to do with it, I—!” “You led them to their slaughter!” yelled the first. “I did not!” Alagar cried fearfully. The second man turned to the others. “Let's just watch him starve to death!” The others cheered in agreement, and so they put the priest in the center of them and waited. Alagar felt hunger, he wouldn’t deny. He had been fasting, which made it all worse. He could feel his deformed arm wrapped in the cloth, throbbing. He could almost hear its pulse, it seemed. The pain surged through him rapidly, causing him to clench his jaw. “You won’t be able to resist it.” Alagar heard Ur as he approached. He could not see the wolf, but he knew he was near in the darkness around them. “I will resist!” Alagar felt something inside of him he’d never felt before. A certain affinity called to him like the night itself. He could feel it, the lust for the iron taste of blood; it scared him; he’d never felt such an urge before. “This fool is talking to himself,” one of the men laughed. “Maybe the god made him delusional,” the other said, causing the third to wail with laughter. Ur spoke up, like a whisper in the priest’s ear. “You won’t be able to resist, try as you might.” Alagar felt it like a fire within him. The wolf laughed “You can resist the instinct to feed.” Alagar’s eyes opened wide and bloodshot. Strength unhindered contorted his body, ripping the chains that bound him. His fingernails grew from his fingers as he stood and jumped upon one of the large men. He felt the warmth of the man’s innards as his deformed claw tore through his stomach. The man writhed in horror and anguish before he bled to death. The other two turned and ran, but Alagar caught up to them with inhuman speed. The once pacific priest lost himself in their bloodbath as he watched himself rips them to shreds, his claws tearing their bodies into indistinguishable remnants. They lay there, more than dead; they lay there, mutilated. Alagar came to his senses and fell to his knees, gripping his blue, deformed arm as their blood dripped off him. “You’re a sloppy animal,” Ur said casually as he began to eat one of the dead men. Alagar could feel himself shaking as he stared down at his blue arm. He whimpered, then cried. “So, tell me, once again,” Ur asked as he walked over to the weeping priest, “what will you do now?” Alagar quietened for a moment, head lowered. “I know exactly what I will do,” Alagar spoke through gritted teeth. Ur cocked his head to the side curiously. He could sense something different in the priest’s tone. It was different. Alagar turned his gaze to Ur. The wolf could see the tears on the priest’s face, mixed with the blood of the three men he had just slaughtered. There was a fire in his eyes, one that was not there before. Alagar stood. “I’m going to kill Nahash.” Ur smiled. “What a fool, you are.” The wolf laughed as Alagar began to walk away. “This,” Ur said as he followed the priest, “this, I have to see.”
A special thanks to my friend Joey for his support in the creation process.