The Bane Of Byagoona

From THE WHSIPERS OF ALTUAS

I. The Advent of the Faceless One

I, Mergowhin of Atlantis, Priest of Daoloth the All-Seeing, have in my possession a singular potion, which when imbibed allows me to travel to far places and elder times, seeing and hearing all that transpires before me — even oftimes reading the very THOUGHTS of my chosen targets of espionage — yet no denizens of these visited locales may in turn behold or hear aught of me. In this wraith-like form I have walked the streets and plains and deserts and shores of many a srange and wondrous land, yet none so enigmatic as ancient Altuas.

It has oft been hinted at in the Elder Lore, yet of a certain never hitherto revealed, the fable which concerns the Great Old One known as Byagoona, and his place in the annals of ancient Altuas. Many a student of said Lore consider him to be but a minor member of a mighty pantheon from the stars. But verily Byagoona is indeed much more; aye, and here shall I, Mergowhin, relate that which other scribes dared but mention, that which has come to be called the Secret Parable of Byagoona the Faceless.

Here, too, shall it made be known the fate of the orphaned mercenary army of the warlord Parthias, whose own ultimate end brought upon him by the Lord of Lizards, aye, even Dythalla, I have related aforetime.

Now this Byagoona, it seems, did come to our fledgling earth when it was still an incandescent cooling mass, from a world known simply as the World of the Seven Suns. And though he did dwell for aeons under this fearsome appelation given him at his hell-birth in the Great Vortex called Lu-Kthu, this name Byagoona is later all but lost in the Elder Lore. As I did scry in mine mystic crystal Eye of Daoloth, he will come to be known under a different yet likewise shuddersome name, Nyarlathotep the Terrible, when he appears again in shadowy Khem — but all this comes after the passing of many strange aeons, and does not concern us here, though it WILL become of GREAT import in the ages to come!

But to contuinue my tale, I must speak of Zendosh, a simple farming community all but undistinguished in such narratives as this were it not for its unfortunate place in the annals of those predatory Great Old Ones from the stars who ruled the universe ere man was but a drop of plankton in the seas of all creation.

Zendosh was located at the foot of the Plains of Ushkaar, a desolate wind-swept mileu whose inhospitable environs were singularly uninhabited save for the small scurryings of lizards, snakes, rats and the like. The flora which grew there was always accompanied by sharp barbs and thorns and occasionally even prickly maws. And in the center of these desolate Plains of Ushkaar, whose wind storms were said to be at times great enow to strip a man bare to the bones in minutes were he to find himself caught up in them, there rose towering the shunned Plateau of Shung. Of a certain was this Plateau of Shung, rising hundreds of feet over Zendosh, barren for as long as the Zendoshi could remember.

But then one dark day the villagers heard sounds of peculiar intensity coming from the direction of the Plains oif Ushkaar, and that night they could espy strange lights of an unfamiliar hue shimmering atop the Plateau of Shung. And if this were not strange enow, the cemeteries of Zendosh, surely filled to brimming thanks to a recent plague which had run its course in the village and taken nearly half of Zendosh’s number before being vanquished, were singularly disturbed at night. Their mausoleums had been broken open and the sarcophagi were empty, the earth on the graves freshly turned and the coffins likewise left unoccupied.

One villager, the Smitty Mainz, even spoke of seeing the plague-riddled corpse of his late brother Urlos stumble through the streets of Zendosh late one night of its own volition. Thinking Urlos returned to life as a boon from the benevolent Elder Gods themselves, Mainz stepped forward to clasp his brother’s shoulder, but shrieked and stumbled aback when he saw the unholy light burning feverishly in Urlos’ one plague-unravaged eye; a light which was said to have matched the hue of that spectral luminous phenomenon atop once-desolate Shung. And it was soon bandied about by the Zendoshi that the dead seemed to be making a mass migration in the direction of the Plains of Ushkaar and its attendant demoniac spire, and this speculatuion seemed borne out when, after a mighty rainfall one night, innumerable muddy tracks were seen to lead out of Zendosh, and into the Plains.

The hellish lights and sounds continued day and night, and the temples of the Elder Gods were filled to brimming like seldom before, the people of Zendosh petitioning their gods for aid and guidance. Yet neither shimmering Oztalun, shadowy and shapeless Shavalyoth, nor even cyan-hued Yaggdytha from far Bel-Yarnak did naught but chose, as gods are often wont, to ignore the villagers’ plight. It seemed that whatever befell the good people of Zendosh would be their concern alone.

II. The Quest of Tal-Hodar

Now though the dead were of no harm or ill-will to the people of Zendosh, and indeed, scarcely even ventured into the town proper, aside from the brief encounter described between Mainz and his late brother, yet were the good people of Zendosh affrighted. Such a mass exodus of the dead from their graves was unprecedented, indeed hardly to be believed but for the testimony of those few unfortunate souls given to such late-night encounters with the walking corpses — and surely such an omen bode naught but ill for the good people of Zendosh.

Thus decided the Zendoshi to send a scout, a hero, whose purpose it were to infiltrate the ranks of the walking dead, to join them in their migration into the Plains of Ushkaar, thus to spy upon them and report all manner of strange occurrences which might be made manifest in the environs therein. And to this desperate charge was unanimously elected the hero Tal-Hodar, late of Thom-Rabbalos, but just now having retired to a long-deserved but now shortly interrupted rest in simple but formerly pleasant Zendosh. Though but a lad, the exploits of Tal-Hodar were many, and his legendary bravery was nearly unsurpassed by all kith and kin of mankind in all Altuas. Yet the good people of Altuas found it of necessity to swear to empty their coffers into the eagerly yawning money-pouch of the adventurer, when, and if, he should return.

Whereupon, such deeds settled, Tal-Hodar took it upon himself to kiss the most comely of the tavern maidens, even Ashura herself, smartly salute the townspeople and march off posthaste to the Cliffs of Kuro. Once reaching his primary destination, Tal-Hodar made himself to sprawl face-down and roll himself in the chalky dust to be found powdered at the foot of said cliff-face, all the better to assume a corpse-like pallor upon his form. Next he moved on to the Forests of Gyaarn, and began to gather berries of a varied and multicolored sort: purple, red, green, yellow, white. These the hero heedlessly smashed against his lean and muscular body, spreading the juices therefrom into various patterns, until it looked as though his once vigorous form was nigh bloodless and spotted with ugly lesions and angry bruises of a varied hue. This task done, he took the yellow and white berries and squeezed their nauseous juice into the center of the patterns until they looked as though infected and fit to burst with pus.

He examined himself minutely and was satisfied, yet one thing more remained to be done. At this prospect Tal-Hodar halted and grew faint — yet the thought of the undreamt wealth to be had at the expense of the Zendoshi drove him on . . . as did their plight, of course, but admittedly it was of lesser concern. True, he had the appearance of the dead . . . yet he lacked the MARK of the dead. Steeling himself mightily, he swiftly drew his dagger and tested its edge. Satisfied with its sharpness, he lifted the blade to the side of his head and, muttering an oath to Graachu the Wargod, swiftly sawed it back and forth. Before long the blood ran freely, and something fell with a few hanks of long blonde hair to the dirt at the hero’s feet — Tal-Hodar’s ear!

As dusk found a column of the dead stalking rigidly into the Plains of Ushkaar, so it found a pallid and blood-encrusted Tal-Hodar likewise bringing up the rear, yet no less stiffly. He regretted he had found it of necessity to leave his sword behind. But the dead were not normally buried with their weapons yet at their sides. Ahead of him the line moved swiftly, into the yawning portal of a massive black stone edifice, and soon the hero passed through the portal. The passage sloped abruptly downward. INTO THE MAW, he thought, AND STRAIGHT INTO THE BELLY OF THE BEAST.

III. Sorcery in Shung

A fortnight passed in Zendosh; the mass exodus persisted, but it had slowed considerably. Nearly all of the graves were empty now, and yawning. Yet no word of Tal-Hodar had come and the Temples of the Elder Gods were yet filled to overflowing. Already consturction had begun on several more temples, and new benevolent gods were being recruited into the pantheon of Zendosh almost daily. All to no avail.

Then on the fifteenth day since the going-forth of Tal-Hodar, a farmer found something amiss in his field. The zoan-beasts were behaving as if greatly agitated, although it had been raining steadily all morning and he knew the dromedaryzoans did not like the water. Finally, the shaken farmer had bestirred himself to investigate the source of the herd’s commotion. What he found lying in that muddy field — though the rains had long since washed away any signs of chalk dust or painted lesions, yet he appeared so bloodless and battered that the farmer thought the youth dead indeed at first — was the recently returned hero Tal-Hodar.

His wounds were deep and severe, the wound where his ear was severed having become particularly infected, and it would be a long while ere Tal-Hodar would again be on his feet. But it was certain that his once-strong BODY at least, would recover. His mind, on the other hand, was so in shock, so BLASTED by his experiences, this hero who had once dared stand unquaking before unbelievable foes too innumerable to count, that it were five days more ere he could tell his tale. But tell his tale he did, in scarce more than a whisper which nonetheless held all in attendance spellbound.

It seems that the master of the black edfice itself, high atop the forbidden Plateau of Shung, was himself a priest, one Balok. Tal-Hodar himself recognized this Balok as having been excommunicated from the very capitol city of Altuas itself, even splendorous Temme-Kiroth. Tal-Hodar too recalled that the priest’s crime had been said to be the utmost of blaspheies, the consorting with demons and devils of the blackest sort, aye, the very Great Old Ones themselves! Secreting himself in his shunned tower, this Balok — or so Tal-Hodar had been able to gather from the ex-priest’s singular habit of ranting and gloating aloud to his attendant corpses, though they remained silent and impassive all along — was able to conjure the dead from their graves by means of a black trapezoidal stone cracked with blood-red striations. The stone was given him by his patron deity, black and terrible Byagoona, reputed to be Lord of the Dead.

Worse yet, the hero found that the prupose of the mass exodus of the dead from their graves was due to the unholy appetite of Byagoona, the Faceless One. For by means of this same trapezoidal stone the evil priest was able to summon forth that eldritch demon-god before Tal-Hodar’s fear-pertified gaze.

Ten man-lengths tall, it towered on three stalk-like legs ending in monstrous splayed claws, a black, humped form which appeared to be constantly shifting and turning in upon itself in a twisted mass. Three tentacular arms coiled maddeningly about it, whipping to and fro hungrily. Yet most horrible of all, it had no face, but rather its dome-like head tapered into a mosntrous blood-red tentacle at least thirty feet long.

Here the hero’s tale was broken, his body wracked by mighty sobs and wails, and it were long moments ere he could continue his tale.

The ghastly thing, he said, was a necrovore, an eater of the dead, for its monstrous-face-tentacle was tipped by a needle-like siphon which it would thrust deep into its victim’s chest, and, constricting the body with the remainder of the tentacle wrapped about its vctim, it would wring every last drop of cold, rancid gore from its carrion-body — as it demonstrated again and again on the assembled dead standing transfixed before it. And as it did so it GREW in dimension so that the top of its loathsome rubbery head nearly brushed the one hundred foot high ceiling.

Ranting aloud again, the black priest Balok praised its name over and over, adding that soon, very soon, it would be set free into the world anew, to taste of itself the FRESH blood and gore of the LIVING.

Hardly able to contain his iron will any longer, hardly able to keep his body from shuddering and retching uncontrollably, yet Tal-Hodar had stood his ground fiercely . . . until that awful questing tentacle came snuffling in his direction. When it was but a few feet away he could contain himself no longer, and had broken from the rapidly dwindling ring of silent corpses. He had run stumbling up the stone stairs, and through the great door leading out of the edifice, his path surprisingly unchallenged by man or beast or corpse alike. But though he had escaped from the edifice unharmed, he found himself unarmed, and the hostile environs of the Plains of Ushkaar troubled him sorely on his nightmare-chased journey back to Zendosh. Yet though beaten by flora and fauna alike, and though subjected to nigh-unbearable wind storms, his final sight gained him in that nightmare tower haunted him and drove him relentlessly. For as he had gained the door he had heard a ghastly shriek, and turning reluctantly had seen the horribly writhing figure of Balok held aloft in the tentacle of Byagoona, its needle-like siphon buried deep in the black priest’s chest!

IV. The Fate That Awaited Zendosh

After hearing Tal-Hodar’s nightmare tale, the people of Zendosh were all in accordance that drastic measures must be taken.

In the environs of Zendosh, and the nearby towns of Ikaar and Hyrkesh, it was bruited about the tale of Parthias the Conqueror, who had met his untimely end in an unknown and reportedly unseemly fashion (but I, Mergowhim of Atlantis, indeed know the truth concerning the fate of Parthias, as I did impart to you aforetime). In his lifetime Parthias had for his own a band of fierce and fearless mercenaries. And after Parthias’ death it fell to his chief lieutenant, the ill-reputed Gnydron of Yarathos, to take command of this motley band. And so it just so happened that the sister of Gnydron, Elara Ryeth, did reside with her husband in Zendosh. Even so, the people of Zendosh yet had to empty their coffers as well — the remaining wealth not claimed by the unfortunate Tal-Hodar, that is, when he was well enow to take his own leave of that accursed town, the comely buxom serving wench Ashura in tow — to press Gnydron and his band to their service. Still the payment was not nearly enow, and sadly and reluctantly the Zendoshi were forced to trade many a nobleman’s daughters to the port city of Shiiand’r-Thien for strange one-of-a-kind jewelry and trinkets, which they then added to the coffers of Gnydron and his men. It mattered little to the Zendoshi that the daughters were to be made the Brides of Y’lla, and thereby sacrificed in an unspeakable blood-orgy by the fish-frog Progeny of that titanic tentacled sea-worm in his mighty sunken citadel K’hraa beneath the waves, so desperate were the good people of Zendosh at this point.

So at last the deal was struck, and Gnydron’s black company rode off, grim-faced and battle-scarred, to the Plains of Ushkaar, to rid the edifice of the scourge of Byagoona. Nearly twenty dozen heavily-armed men rode off, and for four days and nights the sounds of battle — along with less identifiable cacophonies — raged atop the Plateau of Shung. Then on the fifth day silence reigned again, as it had not done so for nearly a month and a half, and the column of mercenaries was spotted on the outskirts of the Plains of Ushkaar. Cheers rang out from the townspeople. The Zendoshi were elated. The mercenaries had won!

The whole town of Zendosh turned out to view the approaching column. They prepared to greet and congratulate the returning warriors. But as the mercenaries drew near the people noticed, subtly at first, then more and more clearly with slowly dawning horror, how stiff the warriors were in their movements, how silent. A few hundred yards nearer, and they noticed how many of them lacked limbs: arms, legs, even HEADS! And some had had these limbs REPLACED by other THINGS stranger still!

A massive tentacled monster loomed on the horizon, nearly blotting out the sky. The villagers turned to run as one. Silently, inexorably, the mercenaries rode into Zendosh and whelmed it to the man.


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