"The Witching Hour"
The moonlight filtered down through the canopy and provided us with most of our illumination. The hour was late, and other than the pulse of orange fire down in the ravine, the world around us was bathed in shadow. The moon was full that night, and where it's influence wained popped the heavenly host of stars.
It was cold on top of that menacing peak. The wind wasn't constant, but periodically it would become excited, and cut right through you. I remember hearing there rythmic chanting and feeling the most horrible sense of forboding and death. Over and over, in a low monotone, we heard filter up through the trees the most bizzare and unholy things. Standing there looking down, and beginning our study of this unknow horror, several human figures began to resolve out of the near blackness. At first glance we had missed them, but as our eyes adjusted to the light of the distant fire, individual forms began to appear. We counted seven members of this demonic group. All were sitting cross-legged at some distance from the central fire, and after completely acclimating we consulted each other on what to do next.
I spoke first, and in a barely contained whisper I remarked to my colleague about the disbelief I felt at finally attaining to the object of our quest. "The villagers were correct. We found them at long last!" My excuberance bairly contained. "Indeed" he replied cooley. "Seven of them just like the old women said there would be." Compared to my own, my companion's speech was measured and steady. We knew from a previous scouting expedition that a path down the ravine lay just off to our right, and after another few minutes of watching, we proceeded a bit closer. We also knew from that previous trip that a good size rock sat about 20 paces down this path and would work as a blind from which to gather information in even greater detail.
So, with infinite care, we began to plod silently down the dirt pathway. The chanting we heard from the coven's ritual grew louder both because we were moving closer with each step, but also because the fiends themselves grew more excited with each phrase uttered. As time passed we noticed that the blasphemous words began to repeat themselves, and each time they did the fire they clusterd around seemed to glow more brightly. It was unknown to us just how the fire seemed to grow. No one from the group seemed to add any fuel, but the words of the creatures made it dance before our eyes. The mysterious way this happened was a strain on my mind, and lent a sinister aspect to the whole affair.
"Is there any way you think you can translate what they are saying?" I whispered this closely into the ear of my friend. He had been studying the language of this ancient group for the past year hoping that he might effect a translation if we did indeed encounter them. "Possibly" he responded. "The way they parse each sentence seems evident, as I suspected it would be, and..." He paused briefly to hear the end of one round and the beginning of the next. "...there seems to be five distinct lines comprising there chant..." He again stopped to listen.
It was at this point he begain to mouth the words we were hearing. Akwardly at first, but with more and more precision as each hooded figure repeated themselves, until at last he was able to mimic the entire chant. "Yes I think I can make sense of what they are sayinng." He waited until a new verse begain. All the while that unholy fire growing brighter and brighter. "We meet at night beneith ancient stars/ Our worship is as you have commanded/ A full moon is looking down from above/ We know that you too are their." My colleague stopped transfixed by what he had just said, and we both just stared, rendered speechless by the mystery of it all.
After several more rounds of this demonic lay the chanting came to an abrupt stop; What hidden signal prompted such cooridinated behavior we'll never know. The final verse was nearly shouted by the frenzied acolytes, and the fire had risen concurrently to an intense conflagration. I remarked to my partner in wonder about the way the flames seemed to grow with the volume of there voices, but his response was interupted by the unexpected silence. The sudden lack of there evil intonement came as suprising too us, and the spontaneous dimunition of the flames startled me and sent my imagination whirling.
We were quite close to the group now, behind that large rock and we had feared that any talk between us would reveal our position. Time passed with no movement or sound from anyone in our ghastly clan. After what felt to me as an eternity one of the demons reached into the folds of his cloak and pulled out a small leather pouch. As he did this, the sputtering fire that was, just a second before, barely alive seemed to respond to his gesture by growing taller and more robust, and gaining substantially in size.
With this, all seven of them stood up and began to pace counter-clockwise around the flames. The man who produced the pouch opened it, removed something from its volume, and passed it along to the ghoul behind him. This proceeded until all seven had removed what they had and the leather bag returned to its original owner. They then stopped pacing, turned again to face there fire, and kneeled. The fire itself flared briefly in response and my eyes grew even wider. One of the men, someone other than the holder of the pouch, but we couldn't tell exactly who, spoke then in that ancient and horrible tounge. After which all seven of them ate whatever foul substance they had removed from the pouch.
I happened to glance at my companion then as they were ingesting that disgusting venom and he appeared busy writing down a copy of the satanic words the man had just spoke. Unnoticed by me as transfixed as I was, my colleague had produced a small notebook and had begun to write down his observations. When he noticed I was looking, he graciously tilted the page towards me so I could see what he was writing. He had positioned himself behind the rock in such a way as to catch a bit of firelight on the paper and I could just barely make out what it said.
The previous effort spent by my linguistically minded friend, in his study of this secret language, had apparently paid its second dividend because on his paper was a translation of this new grotesquery as well. In quotes to indicate what it was, and in a slightly larger script as if the professor was showing a rare display of emotion, read the following: "We recieve this into ourselves as a gift and a blessing/ We are your humble and loyal servents/ We are eager for your arrival and pledge our loyalty to you alone."
The pouch, then, surely contained the sacrament that the coven was reported to use, for we had read about this, at the run down library in the town. It was a rare volume of little known origen that wasn't listed in any catalog, but was shelved there anyway. We had found out about its existence from the same old women who spoke to us of this cult, and other obscure things, and who pointed us to this terrifying place high up in the mountains. This book, written by a purported survivor of an attempted sacrafice, was a way for there victim to spread awareness of these evil fiends and there horrible ways. The drug these ghouls ingested was said to allow them to have visions of there goddess and intereact with her, and was used on the most significant occasions. It was said to be a combonation of wild plant leaves and dessicated human blood.
We stood quietly and observed as the noxious material they swallowed was slowly being metabolised by there bodies. At some point the seven members started to sway back and forth and also to hum in a low monotone. As the dark ritual progressed we could tell that what they ingested was having a greater effect because the swaying became more violent, and the humming grew in volume and intensity. What astonished us the most about this was how the fire too started to grow just like it had before. The demonic illumination became so bright that it reflected off every tree and lit the ravine like it was daytime. Simultaneously, it's golden-yellow color changed and was now a mixture of blue and white that indicated a drastic increase in temperature.
Under the influence of that concoction the humming also reached to an incredible pitch and the air itself came alive with that wretched vibration. I recall the most depressed feeling take hold of me at that time, having some how become degraded by exposure to those rippling currents of air. The idea that my body was, in a way, now connected to there ritual through mutual feeling was quite disturbing to me and I hoped that it would end soon. In my aweful state, though, it occured to me that there was some croscendo building and that this might provide some relief. I could only wonder how my friend beside me was doing as the seconds crept by.
Suddenly, as anything that strains one's reason has tendency to be, the fire began to take on a fluid, swirling character and started to rise up out of it's stone encircled pit. I couldn't believe my eyes! I glanced at my companion in disbelief, wanting to say something, but any attempt at speech would have been preempted by the overwhelming humming sound. I noticed that my friend had temporarily halted his note taking and was starinig fixedly at this insane happening. I turned my look back to this fantastic scene just in time to notice the swirling mass of energy, having at that point risen a meter or so into the air, slowly but distinctly begin to take the shape of a beautiful women. My mouth hung open, and I was struck dumb by what I was witnessing. I could only watch and wonder.
It took about a minute or so for the female figure to fully resolve. She stood with her back to us, floating there facing the man whom by then we considered the leader of this group. At the moment her naked body took its final shape the humming stopped but the intensity of the light persisted. Though still glaring we could now somehow look at her form directly and she was beautiful indeed. She spoke then in the same language as the acolyte before her, and while I myself was unable to understand, I noticed that the professor had resumed his writing.
She paused her speech as the members of her cult shifted into a lying position around the fire, and began again after all of them had readjusted. After several more minutes of hideous diatribe the women floated from her original position around the circle of prone worshipers, stopping above each in turn. While hovering over each member, all the while continuing her monolouge, she performed a series of gestures with her hands that illicited an audible groan from that person, and after she was finished she returned to the center of the group, just above the fire, as before.
At that point she ceased talking, and as if on cue each of the seven monsters sat up and stood. The women then slowly moved towards each person and gave them what appeared to be a kiss directly on the forhead; each kiss causing the person to burst into a blinding pulse of light and then disappear! I could hardly contain a gasp as I saw her progress through each one of the seven members. Surely we would have been recognized if I hadn't covered my mouth with my hand. How fantastic! As she approached the seventh and final man her kiss caused her too to vanish aswell and myself and my colleague were suddenly alone in that nighted ravine. The fire too was extinguished by that final departure.
I could hardly speak! My heart was racing in my chest and my body was shaking with a mild tremor. I turned to the professor, usually much cooler then myself, and he too was visably shaken by what we had just saw. "From what I gather," he started "the women from the fire began by speaking of some other world that they would be travelling to, and all though they would feel a bit of discomfort, they shouldn't worry. There loyalty was unquestioned and was about to be rewarded." All I could respond with as "wow." The professor continued "After this, she started intoning some type of spell or incantation, presumably to effect this transfer to that other world. Some of the words she spoke I was unable to decypher, but I should be able to figure them out with a return trip to the library." I replied "Do you think they will return here?" I could feel my words shake as I spoke them from the fear I felt. "Im not sure he said, but I think we've seen enough for the evening and we should return to our lodging in town, and revisit the old women tomorrow..."