The Cthulhiad

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The Cthulhiad is a collection of short horror/macabre stories and comics written and illustrated by Gareth Sleightholme (some of which are published by Iron-Shod Ape).

To read the stories in order, rather than as they were posted, use the Chapter links in the column to the right.

The Story so far…

Nine people are dead.

Harry Running

Nine people discovered miles apart, both geographically and socially. Some murdered, some reported suicides, some cannot be explained at all.

Yet as Detective Inspector John Malham is slowly coming to realise, every one of these cases may in fact be linked by yet one more death,

…another apparent suicide; yet this time, one with no body on the slab.

And so the question is…

IMAG6747

…who was Harry? And what the hell DID he do for a living? Even his friends aren’t sure it seems.

…and how many more bodies will pile up while Malham struggles to pull the threads of a case he really doesn’t want together?

 

Shapers – Book 1 – The Box

In the chill morning air the crude figure of a man is taking shape.

His final form as yet unclear, he grimaces through his stick-stiff beard and visored-helm as he struggles to be born beneath the iron blade and tempered blows of the wood worker’s mallet.

Small wooden flakes, little bits of “not-man”, fall like spinning seedpods from his unfinished body as it emerges from the thick, oak doorframe, descending gently to the ground where a large grey-muzzled hound lays half asleep, its heavy jowl pressed against the gently shuddering door surround.The dog, undisturbed until now by the blows of the craftsman’s hammer, suddenly lifts its head. Sniffing the air it lets out a grumbling whine, and with the reluctance of an old man struggles to its feet, dragging itself from the dim firelight of the house and into the foggy morning daylight that illuminates the Svear settlement.

The hound is no longer young, and his hips creak and grind like the spars of an abandoned ship on mornings like this. Yet as it pushes its still muscular frame into a run it feels a little of its past vitality return.

Heading down the dirt slope through the quickening village, it avoids the boardwalks where it can and scrabbles across them with great clawed feet where it cannot.

Now, with purpose, loping past a pair of young women burdened with water-pails, then leaping over an abandoned, yet still smoking camp fire. Shoving its way past children and knocking into the early morning inhabitants; barking all the while as if to sound an alarm.

The animal seems to draw the eyes, cries and pointed fingers of the entire waking village, until finally, with nowhere left to run, it reaches the estuary shore and begins to whine and pace, stepping in and out of the water as if unable to contain itself, as if able to smell something coming in under the mist with the morning tide.

For the past few days, by the edge of the river and on the heath-land close to the low walled border of the village, a tented shanty town has been developing. A group of men, denizens of the various small encampments welcome a pair of new arrivals, a father and son who have arrived by land from the south in two covered wagons.

Smoke drifts across the ground from fires both in and outside of the other waking households. While below, by the waters edge, a dozen or so small boats are moored by several rough wooden jetties that stretch into the lapping water.

Three larger ships have been dragged onto the shingle beach, warships, long-ships, dragon-ships, their serpent headed prows stowed away so as not to offend the local spirits of river and shoreline. One of the three, still with its striped awnings pulled over its midsection has a light within, still showing signs of habitation.

Close by a group of children playing by the waters edge stop mid game, one of them points out the dog to his grandfather who leans on his staff gossiping with the washerwomen at the shoreline. Turning the old man nods and whispers to another young lad by his side, who runs back along the path taken by the frantic hound, away and up the slope he runs, toward a large house built upon the higher ground that lay a little way from the shore.

The house, in truth a meeting hall as much as a living space, dominates the settlement of Thingsalla, a settlement which stretches from the brow of a long low hillside in the east and down toward the edge of the wide river.

As the boy reaches the great longhouse a large heavy cloaked man checks his pace. The man, the shorter of two guards posted before the door to the house is armed with a spjot, a tall spear of ash, tipped with a broad leafed blade. Shifting the weapon skilfully into the path of the youngster his cloak moves aside revealing a coat of mail and a sword hanging from a sheath slung across his broad chest. The boy points back to the old man by the water and with his assailant distracted, ducks beneath the spear of the disgruntled looking guard, disappearing inside.

Moments later the boy reappears from the doorway of the great hall, a huge, scarred and grey bearded man at his side whose mere presence causes the guards to straighten.

Hakon looks toward the river as the old man gestures to the dog with his staff, then shouts.

“The animal smells them… they’re coming!”

“And not before time.” the Jarl mumbles under his breath.

Then giving the young boy a hearty smack on the shoulder, his voice booming, shouts.

“Send the word lads! Tovi and Bryn are down river!  Prepare the quayside, we must celebrate and honour our friends! TOVI AND BRYN ARE RETURNED TO US!

With that he strides back into his house.

The old man gestures excitedly to the children who run off in all directions echoing the cry of their chief.

“TOVI AND BRYN… TOVI AND BRYN ARE COMING!”.

The Mermaid/Copenhagen – part 3

A Postscript –

The Cthulhiad: – “The Mermaid”

“I’ve loved so many times and I’ve drowned them all
From their coral graves, they rise up when darkness falls
With their bones they’ll scratch the window, I hear them call

Stay with me under these waves, tonight
Be free for once in your life tonight”

“Nightmares By The Sea” – Jeff Buckley

“You look different every time
you come from the foam-crested brine
It’s your skin shining softly in the moonlight

So until your blood runs to meet the next full moon
your madness fits in nicely with my own, with my own
Your lunacy fits neatly with my own
my very own
We’re not alone”

“Sea Song” – Tears For Fears

– September 13th, 2004

Harry, 55 degrees 41 minutes North, 12 degrees 34 minutes East.

As a child watching Danny Kaye singing on the TV, even much later as a relatively well travelled young man, I had always pictured Copenhagen to be further north, somewhere out on the mainland peninsula’s northern tip; close to where I now know the town of Skagen sits.

So it was with surprise that on my first trip to Denmark, almost a decade ago, that I found myself on the eastern coast of an island, closer in fact to Sweden than to my imagined destination. On that occasion, I recall, I had been filled with a heady enthusiasm that I had at last arrived in the greater “Viking” homeland.

I had in my youth developed a deep-rooted admiration for those great northern warrior-traders, I suppose it lingers still. Yet I had read so much and tasted so little of many places in those days.

Regardless, it was no doubt the ancient Norns, chuckling to themselves at their spinning wheel, that this time had lent a hand in my much less direct approach to this “salty old queen of the sea”; my flight not only being delayed but also diverted.

I arrived in Malmo, on the Swedish mainland, sometime after midnight and took a taxi straight to a hotel on the south side of the city, it came well recommended by the jaw-droppingly tall, yet equally pretty assistant at the special baggage counter. Over the years I’ve stayed in grand hotels and I’ve stayed in hostels, I rarely notice the difference if I’m working. All I want is a hard bed with a clean duvet and a bathroom with a decent power-shower. The hotel picked for me by the girl had both. I freshened up and then read myself to sleep.

A nightmare, in which I stumbled, blind with a dog snapping at my heels, woke me early the next morning. My heart was still pounding as I sat hunkered-down in the shower, the very real sensation of falling and the sound of the dog’s barks and yelps, and in the distance horns blowing, lingering even as I checked out of the hotel.

The mist coming off the Baltic had turned the early morning streets to monochrome. I checked the time on my mobile and decided to clear my head with a walk rather than getting a cab directly to the station. As I walked I thought I saw the mist-softened silhouette of a windmill, bringing back a fond memory of a sunnier, less portenteous day in the Dutch town of Zaandam.

002i – The Lance

Oxford, England, January 25th, 2001

So where did the ship take him…?

x The Worm page 007The writer does not say with certainty, he descends into ………… mystery and leaves us with three possibilities….

He suggests that the ship was the vessel of seraphs made manifest and so un-harmful to Georgius’ human eyes and mind, and in it they raised him to heaven with song and the light of sword of flame, a living man brought before the face of god, as Enoch and Elijah before him, there to prepare him to be that true knight of the lord we envisage in the legends that have come down to us.

x The Worm page 008

Others interpretations are that he took passage upon the mysterious ship back to the land of his father, and that of his father’s father; and there walked high into the mountains to a sanctuary dedicated by those of the early faith. Here he learned not only of the tenets and lore of his faith, but armed himself with other hidden secrets of the world held in that enclave, including the knowledge of arms…

Harry – It’s funny, that’s what I normally tell people I did…

Father Mac – There is time aplenty yet for us all to take that particular path my friend…

Notes to “The White Ship” – Book 1 of The Lance

Notes to the White Ship – Part 1 of “The Lance: Ashkelon”

This annotation remains a work in progress… last updated 27 October, 2015

Page 1

Frame 1

Three women (a typical motif in mythological tales – Thompson A123.1.1. ), an elder, an initiate and a novice in this case to an order of some kind, they appear to have been given the task of watching over this watchtower in the desert… It seems odd that they are not in the tower, the watch tower becoming a tower that is watched, rather than a tower that you watch from…

They discuss sentinels of light that have come from somewhere else, and hidden themselves here beneath the watchtower. And something that smells like the sea* having moved through the space.

By the tower are massive Hammer, or T-shaped ritual stones or pillars that resemble the ones found at Göbekli Tepe.

*This can be seen as perhaps related to a conversation had by two ancient creatures in the epilogue to “Severed Head Cult”.

Frames 2 & 3

The elder amongst the women has left her companions to enter the tower which we can see is build beside a pit of some kind, suggesting there is more below the tower.

Page 2-5

The woman descends into the earth (Thompson F100) uttering magic words (Similar to the Summerian for The power of the sun, and fire) and spitting on a cone pod from a Cedar Tree* which bursts into flame to light her way. As she descend further we see even more of the T-shaped pillars, but unlike the ones above ground, these are cyclopean in scale.

In flashback we see a group of people who have led a white bull into the caves and the forest of stone pillars. There a huge dark figure looms out of the pit. Dark Buzur; rather than the common arabic word for seed (often applied to children), or the first name of the captain of Utnatapitshim’s ship in the mesopotamian flood myth, this refers to Summerian BUZUR – God of the Deep Mines (God Who Solves Secrets).

*The cedar is a tree of ritual as well as practical significance, historically speaking, to the people of the Levant. Much as the Ash was to the Norse people.

Page 6

Keepers of the House (of the Brethren of Ashkelon) at Dresden discuss a private painting commission (that resembles the tower from the previous pages, but as a ruin, a T-shaped stone remains in the foreground) with a 48 year old Scottish Orientalist Painter. The exhibition room is laden with paintings and sculpture as was the style of certain salons of the period, each seemingly referencing some myth or demonstration of Chaoskamph lore. The painting appears in no other collection, nor any notes or location data. The House at Dresden was lost to the allied bombing of the city on Valentines day 101 years later

Page 8

Harry and Ruth at the Brethren Meeting House in Oxford.

In the quad outside there appears a statue of Bellerophon defeating the Chimera, offspring of Echidna.

“She was the mother of Chimaera who breathed raging fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grim-eyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful blast of blazing fire. Her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophon slay”

– Hesiod, Theogeny (trans. HEW)

Page 9

Hven, the place where early astronomer Tycho Brae lived and worked. There is a story of Tycho Brae owning a Moose that could count by tapping its hoof, and that he received a letter from a member of the aristocracy who had heard of this and wished to purchase the animal. It is said Tycho Brae replied explaining that his moose could not only count, but liked to get drunk, and during one such drunken outing had unfortunately fallen down the stairs of the castle and broken its neck.

Perhaps this is what Ruth was referencing in panel 2/3.

Page 11

Harry wonders why the chess pieces are tipped over…

During the Great War, particularly in early 1917, British aircraft squadrons flying open-cockpit biplanes were losing around two hundred aviators a month most with little more than a couple of moths training, and where a British pilot’s life expectancy was apparently eleven days. The tipping of chairs or the leaving of empty chairs in the mess or meeting spaces of these pilots was a mark of respect for those shot down with whom you may have shared the previous evenings meal or breakfast that day.

Father Mac might be enacting some kind of version of this. It perhaps suggests something of his character, a man who is not willing to hide from the cost of his work, and the effect that work has on others (i.e. leaving a record of the deaths of his “agents” all about his work space).

Page 18

Panels 2, 3 and 4… Possibly a bit soapbox-y, but lets face it, some of those people rendered in all there self-esteem issue/anger fuelled glory in Panel 3 would have a hard time getting their head around that there beloved aryan St George (as would Shakespeare’s Henry V no doubt) in fact being a Turk (some others say due to the fair hair in many of the depictions perhaps Darian, i.e. Iranian) who spoke Greek (his name is Greek also, and as stated later in the book, means farmer), he was born to a Syrian mother and a Turk father, and born in Roman occupied Syria Palaestina. He then perhaps fought at the front of an Italian (Roman) army, and his most talked of exploit (the dragon) was supposed (in some versions of the tale) happened in Africa (Libya), and he was eventually martyred in Diospolis, Palestine.

Not a foot was set by this guy in the UK, let alone England (lets face it, England as a concept wouldn’t even exist for another half a millennium).

But lets face it, the majority of jingoist racist bigots who rally behind the flag in this manner are pretty delusional or probably adverse to reading, so, do I care that they might feel confused or upset about this? No not really.

Maybe an Alfred the Great day would be a better option for them, but again, that might take a bit of reading to get their head around why, and so its not likely to happen is it. But I digress.

Page 20/21

These two pages echo in various degrees events that have no doubt happened again and again, in various cultures, echoing in turn the symbolic persecutions and destructions of culture in the various Culture Hero led Chaoskamph stories that have come down to us. Read the words, substituting modern political figures, and perhaps the word Palace toward the bottom of page 20, with Towers, and you have a very resonant set of images.

Further reading:

Motifs in Folklore – Thompson

Mesopotamian Mythology

NOTES to “The Brethren of St. George”

NOTES:

Translation Page 1 –

First Woman – THE CREATURES ARE WITHIN?

Second Woman – IF YOU CAN CALL THEM THAT.

First Woman – WHAT HAPPENS NOW SISTER?

Second Woman – IT HAS HAPPENED ALREADY. CAN YOU NOT SMELL THE SALT SEA IN ITS PASSING?

First Woman – AND THE CREATURES OF LIGHT WE FOLLOWED HERE? THEY HAVE FLED TO HIDE THEMSELVES WITHIN THE TEMPLE? IS THIS THE END OF IT SO SOON?

Second Woman – IT IS NO TEMPLE. IT IS A WATCHTOWER, OVER A PRISON, BUILT ABOUT A FOREST, BUILT ABOUT A GRAVE. AND PERHAPS YES. PERHAPS THE END BEGINS HERE.

Translation Page 2 – 

First Woman – DOES THE MOTHER FOLLOW THEM TO ASK THIS?

Second Woman – NO SISTER, SHE GOES TO GRANT A BOON.

First Woman – I… I DON’T UNDERSTAND?

Second Woman – SHE HEARS THEIR FEAR AND GOES TO BAR THE GATE.

First Woman – AGAINST THE ONE WHO HAS AWOKEN?

Second Woman – IN PART, BUT TO GIVE THOSE THAT HAVE UNTIL NOW WATCHED OVER US THE REST THEY CRAVE, TO LOCK THE WORLD BEHIND THEM. WHILE THEY HIDE IN THIS VACANT VOID, THIS DEAD GOD’S GRAVE.

NOTES:

The History of the Time – The Roman East

The Pax Romana had broken Judea; a vital strategic if not economically important territory that allowed for the protection of the bread basket of Rome, Egypt.

The middle of the third century saw the growing unrest over the forced occupation of the area destabilise both its indigenous population and its priesthood. The first revolt against Rome had resulted in the destruction of the Temple and much of the city of Jerusalem, the second had raged through the cities of North Africa, this third revolt saw the faithful turned away from the city, the Christian Jews included.

The old faith faltered for a moment, but with foresight the Hebrew elders had begun the redaction of their oral traditions into written form; Ha-Nasi completing work on the Mishna as the people finally sundered under the weight of persecution.

Thereafter parts of the language of those traditions began to fade, slowly beginning its retirement to the shadows of the various portable arks and the newly established and often far-flung genizah; i many places now a record of written words rather than a living spoken thing. Many of those people drifted out of their homeland adding to the Jewish diaspora that had begun some eight-hundred years earlier under Babylonian rule; a trail of tears, to borrow a phrase, that would not not end until the culmination of the second world war, nearly two millennia hence.

Of those that survived Hadrian’s crushing defeat of Simon Bar Kokhba’s Messianic Revolt (and you must remember, over half a million, they say did not), many must have been sold into slavery.

I do not envy them that fate, we have been a cruel animal to our fellow creatures.

Yet outside, beyond the holy city, these Christian Jews and their new creed would grow stronger, eventually, through conversion, marriage and birth, branching off from their Hebraic predecessor completely, and ultimately paving the way for other schisms; those Jewish pastoral settlers close to Yathrib in Arabia in particular.

All fueling the exodus of not only people from Judea, but in a kaleidoscope of forms, their ideas and values too.

And knowing that names are power, the Romans re-imagined the provinces of Judea and Galilee as one and renamed the territory Syria Palaestina to make the devolution of Judea complete.