“The Gyarmr is something like midnight. Ill-begotten. Dirty. Ethereal. Deadly. Midnight brings with it mischief and magic and all manner of marvels unseen when the majestic sun is a memory and the moon is but a sliver of silver against the night sky. Little children stand in dark rooms murmuring old rhymes and foreign words at a mirror, telling one another that they aren’t scared of what’s on the other side, all bravado and hoping their knees aren’t knocking too loudly. Bigger children climb down their trellises at midnight, sneaking away from their safe houses and venturing out to meet up with friends and lovers. When they are too big to be called children, grown ups sneak into houses and take things that are not theirs, sometimes life, sometimes love, sometimes a box of jewels or a pair of wool socks or an irreplaceable brooch.”
The young storyteller paused. This was his final story of the evening, and all eight of Count Hombrek’s guests were deeply under his spell. He looked around the room, relishing their attention. “Yes friends, midnight is the mystery hour, dark and evil. It has always been this way; it always will be. If you’ve not been attentive tonight, I beseech you from the bottoms of my enormous heart to hear me now. For this is no mere story I’m telling you. No, this story can make the difference between life and death. This is a story about midnight,” the storyteller dropped his voice to a stage whisper, “and midnight belongs to the Gyarmr.”
At that moment something heavy crashed into the parlor door, buckling the wood. Men and women alike jumped. A scratching sound came from the opposite side of the door. The storyteller tipped a bag from his sleeve into his hand and tossed it into the winking fireplace. The other hand was already holding the two sponge-like buds for his nose. Thick, thunderhead grey smoke began billowing from the hearth, filling the room in seconds. Black flames licked up through the smoke, eerie and eldritch. A young gentleman shrieked. The storyteller quickly put the buds into his nostrils, taking one final breath before the toxin became too strong.
“It’s the Gyarmr!” someone shouted. People began sobbing. The door handle rattled. Another thump sounded, now at the window.
“Our Father who art in heaven...”
“Oh God. I can smell it. The fires of hell!”
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...”
“Stay calm! It’s onl--” Count Hombrek’s voice cut off, as if someone had clamped a hand over his mouth. The storyteller twisted violently and the Count dropped to the ground with a muffled thud. The storyteller knelt over the man, searched for his neck, found a faint pulse and the chain of a necklace, broke the clasp, pocketed the loot, and was back on his feet all with one fluid motion.
The last of the voices and sobs died away. The storyteller stood in the miasma for a long moment, breathing through the filtered buds in his nose. The sulfurous odor was still faintly present, even through the buds, but the paralyzing poisons from the black powder were blocked. Satisfied that the occupants were all unconscious, the storyteller made his way to the parlor door and knocked four times. “They down are they?”
Not bothering to reply, the storyteller unlatched the handle and pulled the door open. The smoke rolled out of the room, desperate to find a place larger to occupy than the tiny, cramped parlor. “Any issues with the rest of the guests?” the storyteller asked his accomplice.
“Nosir. Justa buncha children and two servants. They were doped good from the dinner, sir. Out like stones now. Didn’t lay a finger on a one of ‘em, either.” The accomplice peered around the storyteller into the room. Eight bodies lie in unceremonious clumps on the floor. The boy licked his lips, unashamed of his avarice.
“Your limit is one,” the storyteller said sternly. “You have five minutes, Wenton, and then we must be gone.”
“Five minutes is sufficient, sir, though I should wish for more. So many pretties.” Wenton scurried into the room, eyeing the unconscious guests as much as the goods that adorned the shelves.
“Five minutes, Wenton,” the storyteller reminded, already moving down the corridor. Behind him he could hear the ripping, tearing sound of flesh, wet and ghastly. The storyteller briefly wondered which poor unfortunate was chosen, but he’d been at the game long enough now that he was already thinking of the necklace in his pocket. Wenton’s giggles echoed down the hallway.
Word Count: 769
The Gyarmr, though barely present in this story, is based upon the folklore of hellhounds. [See wiki article here if interested.]
Part Two will likely come next Friday. Thanks for reading.