The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!
When the Masters of Arts instructed her to mix ash into the mineral components, Liz never dreamed something so simple would end up horrifying.
“It will strengthen the clay,” they said. She believed them. Why shouldn’t she?
She still didn’t understand why the ashes had to come from a burned corpse. Surely the cold ash from last night’s wood cook fire would suffice. They wouldn’t have it so she walked alongside the undertakers as they pushed their carts down the cobbled alleyways each morning. When they came upon a small body she knew she could carry on her own, she handed over her silver coin to the undertakers. They didn’t ask why and she didn’t offer anything more than the money. They took it and then rambled on down the alley. She hoisted her burden over one shoulder and walked back to the knoll to do what had to be done.
When the Masters of Medicine gave her a small bowl and a knife, Liz accepted them and did as they bade her. She winced as a jolt of pain shot from her sliced off fingertip, traveling up her arm where it then dissipated into her shoulder. Her finger throbbed with each drop of blood that ran down into the bowl. She pursed her lips in an effort to thwart a desire to suck on the wound.
“The clay needs iron from your blood,” they said. She nodded because she believed them.
She wanted to ask why not just dump in iron filings from a blacksmith in with water but bit her tongue instead. Liz knew what happened to those who questioned The Masters. You see, that’s how she got the job…the last one asked questions.
She did have to speak up when the Masters of Magic handed her a heavy book with calf skin vellum pages and ornately carved wooden covers. As he opened it with long, grey clawed fingers, she whispered,
“Master…I…do not read so well.”
When he spoke, his voice shook the walls of her skull and her soul. “You need not read anything, child. That is MY part of the ceremony. You simply must hold and repeat what I tell you to.”
She mixed all the dry ingredients as the Masters of Faith instructed and then poured in her blood from the bowl. To her eye, it didn’t look like enough liquid to make all that into a proper clay. However, when she reached in and kneaded it all together, the clay came together rather easily. Within moments, it was a smooth consistency of dough.
That’s when Liz noticed her fingers burning. She cried out as the pain travelled across her hands and up her arms.
“Quickly now.” That booming voice came from her right side.
All of the Masters dipped their fingers into the clay and smeared it on Liz’ arms, neck, and face. Oh, how it burned but she couldn’t move; couldn’t turn away or run. They covered her from head to toe and then stepped back to watch their creation transform. The last thing she saw before the Master of Death took her were the grins on the ashen faces of the other Masters.
Fiction © Copyright Kim Richards
Image courtesy of Pixabay.