"Hey man, look at this stupid book I found! Some kid must have wandered off and put it on the wrong shelf." Bill jogged over to his friend who sat at one of many empty tables, eliciting a dozen annoyed stares from the other people in the library who had been distracted by the shouting. "You've got to see this!" Reggie barely looked up from his work, trying to appear as if he'd never met the loud stranger. "What is it?" "Some crusty old book, I think it's supposed to be one of those corny spell books." Bill's friend shook his head and went back to work. "Then it wasn't in the wrong place, and amazingly enough I still don't care." The two of them were in the library researching for an essay at school, on the topic of various magic-using subcultures. Or at least, ONE of them was researching. They were currently at the occult section, leafing through the many supposed 'authentic' books on magic and extra planar beings, most of them trite and useless even for reference points. Reggie had heard that there were those in Khazan who actually knew magic, real magic, and if that were the case they probably wouldn't be willing to donate the secrets of their power to the local library. To make things worse, Bill was obviously more interested in mocking the works at least one person had believed in over actually doing any work. "Come on man, this one is great. It's written like it's by a four year old!" The dusty tome was suddenly and unceremoniously dumped on top of Reggie's papers, and he stifled an angry shout. It was surprisingly thin, not even a hardcover, and the pages were ragged and yellow with age. Even before reading anything it indeed looked like the work of a child, by construction alone. Reggie could just imagine colorful yarn binding the ancient paper together. Bland and undecorated, the only word on the cover was the title, 'Creathers,' scrawled in wobbly letters. "Read some, it's hilarious! We should check this thing out." "I doubt it would survive." Still, something about the book was...interesting. Reggie couldn't help but open it to the first page, just to see what was so funny. After a few lines he held back a snicker, again shaking his head. "This is terrible." But he kept reading it, starting over aloud. "Creathers creeping, through the bars, slither out from chains of ink. Wriggle free from written prison, stay a while, stop to think. Bonds are broken for a time, power woven through the rhyme..."
Creathers Here Creathers Ther
"Wow, who could have written this trite piece of..." The derision in Bill's voice was scathing, but Reggie was too busy to care, grinning as he read. He wanted to see what kind of ridiculous conclusion the poem had. "Creathers this, Creathers that. Black of heart, pollutes the air. Rotten thoughts fly like a bat, magic nibbles through its hair. Clump together, Creathers here, malice and power, Creathers there! Creathers one, Creathers all, never just a Creather. Creathers always spelled in packs, written to find a feeder." ****** They were everywhere. At least twenty were crammed into the room as if from nowhere, more hanging from the ceiling, some smashing their way in through the windows, another pounding and clawing from the other side of the door. The creatures moved constantly, a dizzying blur of motion that emitted constant rattling and grinding sounds. Hollow eyes stared even amidst the chaotic frenzy, daring Jerod to make a move.
Creathers This, Creathers That
What kind of supposedly arcane book was nothing more than a badly done children's poem, anyway? "Hungry, bored, full of spite? What's the difference if they've the right? Twisted, hobbled, shards of ire, bloody plans and intents dire. A threat arises, they don't wait, but when food is a playing, Creathers stall and tease the bait." Reggie made a face, and this time it was Bill shaking his head. "Sounds like the author of a children's book that wasn't too fond of children." He grunted. "Come on man, this is getting boring." ****** Each of them was similar, but none were the same. They varied in size from an average dog to a large man, cackling beasts of bone and horn and metal. In some places the three blended together, forming vaguely amorphous creatures that were all claws and armor. Jerod started to piece together a plan of attack as he watched them dance and taunt him, noticing how they moved. They didn't look especially strong or bright, and the plates that covered them looked mostly decorative. Could they even see from the empty holes bored into skull and helmet? He made a sudden dive toward the bookcase, and the Creathers laughed with their rasping rattle. They crowded in all at once, more interested in causing pain than death, slashing and biting from all directions. Jerod fought his way through them, trying to ignore the nagging feeling that they were toying with him, and he would already be dead if he were considered a threat. Reaching the corner, his fingers grasped at air behind the case until he found the gun and pulled it free, kicking off a smallish Creather trying to saw its way under his kneecap like a cheese grater. Clothes soaked in blood and dizzy from the loss of it, Jerod shouldered the shotgun and fired, and several Creathers leapt out of the way as one of them lost its head in a shower of smoke and bone fragments. The body dropped soundlessly to the floor.
Creathers rise, Creathers fall
"Come in numbers never-ending, more and more and more even if their heart should fail. A thousand hands your spine are bending, Creathers fight when life does pale. Creathers rise in waves forever, reinforced for those whose lives were severed." A hand pushed at his shoulder. "Hey, let's go already...Reggie? Reg, are you there?" ****** If the other creatures cared about their fallen comrade, they didn't show it. A few glanced down at the body, only to leer at Jerod and take a menacing step forward. "Creathers walk in bodies false..." Some began hissing a crude rhyme, shortly joined by the entire legion one by one. "Creathers dance a puppet's waltz!" Bony joints scraped together, almost in tune as they moved. "Death is not a written word, neither felt nor seen nor heard!" Not a second after the last word was recited the headless body rose, unsteady and blind but very much alive. Never missing a beat, the abomination shambled forward with its kin.
Kill them none, kill them all
"Hey, what's wrong with you?!" Bill pushed insistently at his friend's shoulder, but Reggie continued to read aloud, wide eyes staring right through the paper, his voice taking on a monotone sound. He looked thinner than before. "Pages, pages, an army of words, read to voice and speak to hordes. Thousands live and hundreds die, risen again to fill the sky..." ****** It was then that the bodyguard saw the others. They were almost indistinguishable from the live ones, as all of them were little more than animated freaks of skeletal armor, but their vaguely stilted movement gave them away. Undead Creathers wandered amongst the live ones, bolstering their already swollen ranks. Every Creather that ever died had simply gotten back up, remaining until they were simply too crumbled to move. Some were missing limbs, or had tremendous gashes ripped into their body, but in the end they were just the other half of the army. An army that had suddenly become much less cheerful; a death had upgraded Jerod from fun to dangerous.
Readers read Creathers creed
Mental Defense: Supreme
Shaking frantically at Reggie's arm did nothing, as if the older boy's joints had fused together and made him a talking mannequin. "Set in stone and writing cursed, breaths of life in every verse. Creathers hunting never stops, until the reader's brainstem pops. Heartbeat hanging by a thread, Creathers choose when it's time for dead." Bill gawked. "What did you say?" He turned his attention to the ragged book, reaching forward to pull it away from his friend's hands. "Give me that!" ****** Blood splashed against the wall, and a pair of teeth fell tinkling to the floor . Jerod stumbled back one step and collapsed, beaten and torn, barely clinging to his consciousness. He could take on just one of the things in a fair fight. Not the thirty now suffocating his bedroom, and by the howling outside they were flooding the streets, clawing down the building to get at him. The bodyguard moaned and coughed of a chunk of something he'd rather not guess at, mind racing. One faint glimmer of hope flashed before him, the one thing that had gotten him an edge in the business over all the other faceless suits. Those years of training with mentalists to use his mind's eye hadn't been for nothing. He lashed out with everything he had, trying both to cripple the monsters and see some sort of weakness that would enable escape. The psychic energy he had practiced pushed outward, probing the Creathers, and found...nothing. He blinked. Even insects had *something*. Jerod drove harder, and found the tiniest link, and his hope faded. They were connected, all of them, to the same source, but it was too far away, and blocked by the chaotic emptiness of the Creathers. The source, whatever it was, lay far beyond Jerod's power to touch.
Lost in the story
Fear and desperation overwhelming him, Jerod dug into the last strength he had and stood, lunging at the nearest Creather and balling a fist to strike at it. The beast tilted its head and watched him, and at the last instant, vanished without even a puff of smoke. Jerod staggered on his own momentum, falling back down, only to take a kick to the stomach from the creature waiting behind the disappeared first. That was the last piece of what made them so hard to look at, he realized. That was how they got in so fast. They just appeared, blinking in and out of existence even as they writhed together in a mass. He crashed onto his back and the Creathers fell at him, one taking hold of each limb and pinning him down, another standing on his gut, a sixth looming overhead and grasping at his throat. "Food for feeding?" The ones to his left nodded hungrily. "Slave for slaving?" Those to the right muttered in agreement. The two sides glared at each other when the headless undead, still-warm blood staining its claws, raised a hand and made incomprehensible gurgling sounds from its mangled throat. "Food for the slaves!" Both factions cackled in joyous assent. "Food for the slaves! Food for the slaves!" The cheers died away almost at once. "Creathers cannot use him here, slaves are far and he his near. For slaves to have him fully cooked, Creathers must go back to the book!" Chanting arose again. "Back to the book! Back to the book! Things may get messy, close your eyes and don't look!" The entire army except for the six holding down Jerod faded away, and those went one at a time....taking their respective body part with them. By the time the head came last, the bodyguard was long dead. ****** Bill grasped the book and fell away shouting, clutching his own burnt hands. "Creathers rend and story ends, back to glue and binding. Spells wrap themselves into a close, until the next unwinding. Creathers come and Creather's go, and to the newcomer say hello...o...." Reggie stuttered at the end, eyes bloodshot, and then fell forward. The book slammed shut and his face landed on top of it, barely registering a sound before he completely vanished. Too shocked to notice his pain, Bill stared at the tome from the floor, a wisp of smoke rising from its surface. He turned at a cough to see an angry librarian gesture for him to be quiet and then storm away, leaving him where he was. When he looked back, the book called Creathers had disappeared as well.
Can't Put It Down
The librarian sighed and bent down to pick up another book left on the table, shaking her head at the neglect people showed the old tomes. All books were precious, but to see one that hadn't been in print for years left open on a table, the reader long gone, was just sad. As she placed them back in their rightful places on the shelves she caught sight of an older gentleman reading in the corner, speaking softly to himself. Something seemed...wrong, about him. His eyes bulged, chest constricted. He didn't look well at all, despite the faint smile as he read. The librarian walked briskly over to him and tapped his shoulder, to no response. "Sir? Are you alright, sir?" She gave his shoulder a light pushed, and cried out as a flash of light burned her hand. The woman winced and cradled her scarred flesh, looking up when a brief series of clicking sounds suddenly echoed in her ears, and her eyes became much wider than the reader's. "Story finished when reader reads it! Distraction leaves when Creathers bleed it!" A half-dozen horrible, disfigured creatures had appeared out of nowhere, protectively blocking the old man. Their bony limbs twitched and rattled together, stained with blood from wherever they had come from. Voices chanted in unison as they all spoke at once, and the reader's mouth moved to match them as he read the words off the page. "Not the prey, you cannot see it! Join the fray, or run and forget it!" The librarian chose the latter, moaning with fear and stumbling away as fast as she could. Watching her leave, the Creathers cackled once and then vanished one by one to rejoin their countless allies in the kill.