Archive for Gothic Prose

The Grimoire of the Dark Young

Posted in Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose, Nostalgia, song lyrics, The Dark Young with tags , , , , on December 14, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Now that Black Hymeneal is on the verge of publication, I have begun work on my next release: The Grimoire of the Dark Young. This sinister sounding booklet will feature the words to the poems and lyrics featured in the music of the Dark Young in which I had a hand in writing.

It shall contain brief essays on the book and the band, scans of related artwork, and photos of the band from those halcyon days of yore. The table of contents will run as follows:

01. Tetragramophone

02. My Friend Boris

03. My Love and I

04. Gargoyle

05. Tasty Little Muffins

06. The Silent Sibling

07. Reflections in the Darkness

08. Flower of Evil

09. Thoughts of a Soulless Savior (The Golem of Prague)

10. Femme Fatale

11. The City Never Sleeps

12. Ring-a-Ding Dingy

13. XIII

I will keep you all posted on any updates as things develop.

The Grimorium Iuvenis Obscurum.

 

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Nativity in Black

Posted in Antichrist, Black Sabbath, Gothic Prose, N.I.B., Nativity in Black, Nativity in Black (album), prose, The Omen (1976), Weird Fiction with tags , , , , , , , on November 22, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

I will begin this post with a disclaimer. I was hesitant to post this little prose piece for fear of a backlash from people who don’t understand the difference between fiction and reality. The following is a fantasy, not a comment on my personal beliefs, nor is it meant to be a parody of anyone else’s beliefs. Okay, now that’s out of the way let’s move on…

About a year ago, I was listening to Black Sabbath when the tune N.I.B. came on and I began to reflect on the amusing story behind its name:

“In a 1992 interview, Geezer Butler states that the title simply refers to Bill Ward’s goatee at the time, which the rest of the band thought was shaped like a pen nib; also referred to as nibby. Apparently, Geezer Butler said: “Originally it was Nib, which was Bill’s beard. When I wrote N.I.B., I couldn’t think of a title for the song, so I just called it Nib, after Bill’s beard. To make it more intriguing I put punctuation marks in there to make it N.I.B. By the time it got to America, they translated it to Nativity In Black.” Ronnie James Dio can be heard mentioning (but not confirming) this assumption on several live bootleg recordings with the band from the early 1980s and on the 2007 released Live-CD Live at Hammersmith Odeon, recorded in 1982. “Nativity in Black” was later used for the title of a series of Black Sabbath tribute albums.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N.I.B. retrieved from Wikipedia 11/14/2017)

Cover art for the Black Sabbath tribute album, Nativity in Black (1994, Columbia Records).

As I pondered over the title Nativity in Black I was struck with an idea to write a prose poem describing the nativity of the Antichrist. It would be a mirror reflection of the traditional story, showing the shadow side, the yin to its yang, if you will. I did some research, made some notes, and then put it aside in favor of some other more pressing projects. Fast-forward to October 2017 after the 7 Minutes in Hell show at Space 55, my buddy Ash invites me to participate in a special Horror-themed Christmas show to make up for the Lovecraft show in August which got canceled at the last minute. I of course agreed then promptly began to panic as I didn’t have anything Christmas-themed save for my Krampus poem which I have read at several events over the last few years. I needed to write something new, but what?

Then one evening I was sitting in my room looking through my DVD collection for something to watch, when I pulled The Omen (1976) from the shelf. I put it on, and within minutes was reminded of my shelved project. I pulled it out and found that inspiration came very quickly so that within days I had the body of the piece written and just had to tweak it until it was ready to be shared. So without further ado, I present Nativity in Black

 

In the days of political cronyism and religious extremism, when the underprivileged were exploited and social minorities were discriminated against or persecuted, a coven of Spanish witches were celebrating an akelarre in a remote cave in the vicinity of Zugarramurdi, in Navarra, Spain, when they were interrupted by the unexpected arrival of an emissary from Hell.

Naked and dreadful she rose from the flames of their bonfire, her long red hair cascading down the entirety of her pearly flesh to rejoin the flames; her green eyes were fierce and dazzling. The witches were sore afraid and trembled at her approach, but she opened her palms at her sides and in tones of surety set their minds at ease:

“Fear not my little darklings, I am Lilith, true first woman and Queen of all Hell, and I bring you good tidings that will be a boon to all children of darkness. Tonight, in the ruins of Chorazin an oppressor was born unto you; he is the Antichrist, your Overlord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby swathed in shadow, lying in a minikin ebon coffin.”

In response to her announcement a host of cherubic heads on bat wings sprung from the fire from whence arose their mistress; their lambent eyes glimmering like tiny candle flames in the gloomy cave, their red mouths chaunting in antiphonal response, “Hail to Satan in the lowest chasm, and on earth woe to those who incur his wrath.”

At the conclusion of her annunciation Lilith raised her arms from her sides and flames appeared on either palm as she declaimed “Let these lights become a beacon to all who wish to undertake the Black Pilgrimage and witness the beginning of the end.” Clapping her hands together the flames coalesced to form a fireball which she released into the heavens beyond the cave. Simultaneous with the egress of the beacon was the withdrawal of fair Lilith and her dreadful chorus followed by the return of the lackluster normalcy of the natural world.

At the departure of the infernal host the coven rallied to choose 3 of their 13 to follow the ignis fatuus, traveling through never-ending night on a small barque with a lone sable sail, blown by an ill wind, to the shores of Galilee. Upon their dawn arrival, as the barque and the beacon flame faded, giving way to the oppressive daytime sunlight, they climbed the hill of the ancient city where they sought and found the fabled lost synagogue of Jacob Ory. Exhausted, they collapsed at the foot of the ruin and fell fast asleep.

Awaking to the gloom of the crepuscular hour they waited for the reappearance of the guiding light which appeared anon in the caliginous heavens above the ruin before falling, like a comet, toward them. Frozen in mingled fear and anticipation they followed it’s decent until, at the last moment, it slowed to alight on the flambeau between the horns of the terrible Goat of Mendes, Baphomet, who was the first to appear in the formerly occulted tableaux which was suddenly illuminated before his dais in blasphemous splendor.

Acknowledging the pilgrims the Light-bearer deigned to motion for their approach. The witches, complying, were awestruck at the scene before them. To the left, lurking just beyond the fulgor of Baphomet’s beacon, were a coterie of ashen-faced men in tailored suits. Each one in his livid hands bore a bauta mask adorned with the semblance of a human face, each vizard representing one of the sundry races of humankind. Their red eyes smoldered in the shadows as their forked tongues slithered betwixt their acuminate choppers.

To the right was a menagerie of benighted beasts: a prodigious toad squatting and squinting, it’s cat-like eyes surveying the coven with a scrutiny that betrayed an aberrant intelligence; a three-headed serpent, reared upright, with its heads thrown back, exposing its belly in obeisance; and an enormous black canid with a single flaming red eye in the center of its forehead which stood menacingly as acting sentinel to the infernal infant in the funest cradle before them. Next to them were a band of sooty devils creating a discordant din: one blew a steerhorn from his buttocks, another played a tabor and a third a viol all fashioned from human bones, gut, and skin.

Opposite them, genuflecting to the unholy family, were the bedeviled shades of the three magi: Otsanes, Zoroaster, and Hystaspes, granted leave from their underworld abodes to present Satan’s son with individual gifts of goety, astrology and prophecy. The child’s mother, a callow and corrupted apostate, was fair of face, lithe in figure, and arrayed in black. Crowned with a star-ruby in a silver diadem, she accepted their gifts with unseemly gusto which she submitted to her consort for his consecration before placing them on the dais.

The hell-bound Hadži, with hesitant steps, approached the little black funerary box lined in black silk where an august newborn, swaddled in a protective wreathe of tenebrosity, gurgled and wriggled before opening his penetrating black eyes to gaze upon his menials who quailed at his uncanny gaze and fell on their knees to grovel.

“Woe to you, oh earth and sea, for the devil sends the beast with wrath because he knows the time is short. Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number: its number is six hundred and sixty six.”

 

“Black Hymeneal” Reboot

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose with tags , , , on June 16, 2017 by Manuel Paul Arenas

My first poetry collection, “Black Hymeneal”, is back on track. It will not be the beautiful book I envisioned so long ago, but it will at least get out into the world. It shall not feature any specific artwork. Unfortunately, my friend Michele has some pressing familial responsibilities which have taken precedence (understandably) over helping to complete the artwork for the book, so I am going to just continue without it at this point. Perhaps someday we can collaborate on a portfolio of the completed artwork she did for the book, if the collection proves to be successful enough to warrant that. Her lovely artwork deserves to be seen, and I hope some day it will be. I appreciate the hard work she did and the help she gave me in showing me the ropes of the publishing business. I shall never forget her kindness.

The table of contents for the new book has changed, since I have decided to pull a few pieces for another planned collection of song lyrics for my old band, The Dark Young. More on that after I get “Black Hymeneal” into the world.

The new selection is as follows:

01. Manurog
02. Hell-flower
03. Thalia
04. Witch’s Tit
05. Sor Maria and the Devil, Luzbel
06. Krampus
07. Manqueller Manque
08. Moribond
09. Skull in an Ice Cream Cone
10. HPL RIP
11. Broceliande
12. Threnody
13. Black Hymeneal

I have already begun retyping the manuscript and adding new introductions for the poems. My goal was to be ready to publish by my 50th birthday in August. We’ll see if I can make the deadline. Keep your eyes on future posts with updates.

Skull in an Ice Cream Cone

Posted in Black Hymeneal, Gothic Poetry, Gothic Prose, Kharon, Michele Bledsoe, Moira, River Styx with tags , , , , , , , on October 21, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Skull in an Ice Cream Cone comes in 13 flavors including disabusal, despair, and doom.

Toppings of mingled tears and lifeblood ooze down the bony pate in delectable fashion, dripping across nullified sockets, and pooling around pearly teeth, lovingly nestled in a crunchy waffle cone.

Sprinkled atop the crest are tiny crumbs of respite and joy, which are few and fleeting.

Guaranteed to all, everyone eventually gets a taste regardless of age, sex, race or station; proportionally meted out in accordance to one’s fate as determined by our lovely scoop girl, Moira.

And, for a limited time only, some lucky folks may find a shiny treat betwixt those immobile ivories–like an obol for Kharon, to ensure safe passage across the river Styx!

Won’t you have a lick? I hear it’s to die for…

"Skull in an Ice Cream Cone" illustration by Michele Bledsoe.

“Skull in an Ice Cream Cone” illustration by Michele Bledsoe.

Good Morrow Azraelle Undercroft

Posted in Gothic Horror, Gothic Prose with tags , , on March 24, 2014 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Scud clouds darken the griseous skies and hover like a headsman’s axe over the vicarage. Seated at his oaken desk, the Vicar Rhodes removes his spectacles and kneads his temples as he slowly exhales a breath infused with the whisky shot he shared earlier with the sexton to calm their nerves after the man burst into his office in a tizzy, ranting and dragging the vicar to witness the ghoulish tableau he had discovered in the churchyard while making his morning rounds. It appears that someone dressed up a couple of old cadavers to look like satanic headbangers and left them strewn amongst the headstones. The perpetrators also left behind a ghetto blaster under the lychgate that the already shaken sexton had backed into during his initial retreat from the scene which prompted it to blare a blasphemous clamor that sounded to him like “the devil’s own choir”. Now the vicar must prepare himself to answer the many queries of the constable waiting for an audience in the vestibule.

Returning his spectacles to the bridge of his aquiline nose, he rises from his chair and walks across the room to a small mirror which he often times refers to when fastening the many buttons on his sarum. Examining his haggard reflection in the glass, he feels alternately drawn to and repelled by the mirror. Fixated on the reflective surface, his pupils begin to widen and his eyesight becomes murky. However, a staccato knocking on his door breaks the thrall and he blinks his eyes, shakes his head and turns to open the door to receive the constable.

On the other side of the mirror, in a macabre dimension of benighted spirits and pernicious entities, Azraelle looks back from her vanity mirror, smiling, and says “Postea sacerdos“. She chose to learn Latin, which is not native to her, because she saw it as being the language of the churchyards. Requiescat in pace, memento mori, every legend on a plaque, every epitaph on a tombstone seemed to bear an inscription in the lingua latina. At least in the western world, it was her key to the city of the dead. Hiding in the lower berths of churches, known as undercrofts (hence the sobriquet), where the sarcophagi of the church elders may be found, Azraelle would linger in the darkness, listening through vents and peeping through keyholes as she snuffed the tiny lights of crypt vermin while listening to the novices learning what was once the language of the Roman Empire; the days of which are long gone, yet Azraelle remains.

Worshiped by a misguided few and often mistaken for Death itself, Azraelle is a soul-eater, which feeds off of the anima of her victims. Looking into her maw is like looking into a walking Hellmouth from which there is no hope of salvation, a sort of death for the dead. Like the Lord of Hell, she is known by many names but the one that has stuck with her, and with which she is most often identified nowadays, is Azraelle Undercroft, an appellation given her by Emanuel Sands, a two-bit English Gothicist, and armchair occultist, in his specious treatise on the monstrous lineage of Eve’s seldom mentioned predecessor, entitled Children of Lilith (1914).

In said tome, Sands cites an account which he claims to have translated from an 18th century German manuscript that relates the horror that befell a group of Wallachian vigilantes whom had assembled in their local churchyard to dig up and dispatch an alleged vampire that had been terrorizing their village. Sands claims that when they exhumed the narrow house of their late neighbor, they found the original tenant had been deposed and lying in wait for them was a hellish revenant which grabbed the group captain as he opened the lid of the coffin and drew him in quickly, like a trapdoor spider. Momentarily stunned by the dreadful sounds emanating from within the coffin, the remaining mob members were brought back to the moment when the husk of their comrade was ejected from the pine box as long taloned  fingers clasped the wrist of another of their mates, causing the others to flee, screaming.

At this point Sands claims the lid, and then the lifeless shell of the second vigilante were cast aside and the revenant leapt from its hiding place to assail the fleeing men. “One by one she picked them off (for the author of the manuscript claims the revenant–our dear Azraelle–bore the semblance of a female form, though hominid woman it was not) with alarming alacrity, the only survivor being a young man who made it past the threshold of the churchyard gates, which Ms. Undercroft did not seem to be able to cross. When he turned back to look for his compeers he saw their withered skins strewn across the headstones and clinging to the fencing with shriveled hands, their bones jutting like tent poles in their dessicated corpses. And looming haughtily over the slaughter like a deathful valkyrie–albeit much more ghastly and sinister than Odin’s shield-maidens–was Azraelle Undercroft, leering with her overlarge grin and blackened brow. Lifting her bony claw to wave farewell, she then vaulted the overturned coffin which she pulled from the plot and vanished into the open grave below.” [Children of Lilith 1914, pg 13]

Many scholars denounce this tale as spurious sensationalism and question Sands’ sources since no other record of this event appears to be extant in any form other than his purported re-telling. Sands never produced a copy of the original manuscript, but persisted in averring its authenticity until his disappearance in 1917. Authentic or not, it’s delineation of her modus operandi rings true enough, although the vigilantes either had to be foolish enough to visit the churchyard by night, or Azraelle was above ground during daylight hours, which does seem unlikely for she is the daughter of the Night after all.

No matter what Sands or the classical mythologists might have believed of her, she is her own woman, after a fashion, and does not trouble herself with their fantasies, nor the scribblings of some fey, laudanum-addled scribe. She existed millennia before them, and she shall continue to do so aeons after they have gone to their just rewards. She ekes out her noxious existence in her world between worlds and pays them no mind at all…rather like the zombie sluggishly lugging the lacerated and withered carcass of her latest inamorato from her chamber of horrors where she entertains her hapless guests.

Although she exists in a world far-removed from the sun’s inimical rays she must still find time to process the energies she has consumed during her  nightly venery. So as she prepares for her moment of quiescence (peeling off her bloodied dress, returning to her bath to wash the mess of her gruesome pastime from her face and figure; rinsing blood-spatter from her long black hair and scraping the gore from under her long red nails) her zombie minions refresh her bedclothes and pump the bellows to fan the fire in the grate as the temperature in the wasteland tends towards the gelid.

Rising from her bath, she is approached by a minion whose clumsy attempt to pat her down ventures on  the inappropriate. Annoyed, she places her rawboned hand on its scalp and pushes it away (almost removing it’s moldered scalp in the process) and heads toward her sarcophagus, which she uses to remind her of from whence comes her bounty.Once inspirited, however, she is up and off again to find more souls to swallow.

Good morrow Azraelle Undercroft–sleep tight–and remember, whenever you awaken, somewhere out there, it will always be night.

A-Hunting She Will Go

Posted in Gothic Horror, Gothic Prose with tags , , on February 16, 2014 by Manuel Paul Arenas

Midnight, the witching hour, when the things that lurk in the shadows emerge to indulge in their noctambulous maleficia. Somewhere in the necropolis of an ancient city, the lock on a bronze mausoleum door clicks counterclockwise allowing it to be pushed ajar. Ere long, spindling spider-leg fingers loom from the caliginous crypt to grip the jamb for leverage. Nigrescent rays splay  the night as a pair of jetty eyes proceed to suck the light from wherever their cimmerian gaze settle, like an inverted lantern. The bony brow from which they peer is framed by a shock of thin but voluminous black hair; the remaining features are soon unveiled from the cover of shadow by fulgent moonbeams. Were it not for her adumbral mien and disproportionately large rictus she might almost seem beautiful.

In preternatural time, where things move quickly in slow motion, like a film reel with missing frames, she emerges entirely from behind the brazen door and into the moon-swathed night. She is not a resident of this particular bone-yard; the crypt from which she crawled is just one in a series of multifarious portals to our world from the chthonian wastelands from which she hails. Neither live nor dead, she dwells in the realm between worlds, between Gaia and Gehenna. Every night she selects a burrow leading up to a random cemetery from which she can rise and prey on the unfortunate souls who cross her path.

With the slotted nub that passes for her nose, she sniffs the air. Like a bloodhound, she catches a scent and follows it–her long black mane billowing in the rising wind, strips of cerecloth trailing behind her as she skirrs twixt the gravestones to reach her quarry before they are dispersed by the impending rain. She needn’t fret, however, for her supernatural speed and agility enable her to track them down in no time. From a vantage point behind them, she surveys the layout and plans her attack.

Seated on benches under a thatched gate are three adolescent males with their bangs in their eyes and down on their thin vermillion lips. From their pasty faces, long hair and unshaven upper lips she believes them to be Britons of some stripe or another, although she finds their attire quite unusual. They wear colored tunics  emblazoned with diabolical designs in lurid colors. Are they acolytes to some infernal host? She is wary of incurring the wrath of the Archfiend or one of His fallen retinue. As long as she stays out of their way they leave her to her schemes outside the purview of the realm beyond the Seven Gates. Then again, none of these whelps seem worthy enough to warrant the considerations of such high-ranking figures of the Lowest Dominion.

Upon a bier, an unaesthetic music box blares a cacophonous row while the smaller boys snigger and struggle to sit upright as they pass around a bottle between them, half filled with a fizzy roseate libation. The alpha of the lot is a tall bruiser with dark heavy-lidded eyes on an oval face, a snub nose which will probably one day make a marvelous gin blossom–assuming he lives long enough for his routine elixir to work it’s magic on his nasal capillaries–stringy dark hair, a well-proportioned physique and thick stubby fingers between which he pinches a burning roll of papyrus stuffed with a noxious weed which causes Azraelle to grimace when the downdraft blows it in her face. He broodingly stares out into the empty space before him as he nurses a bottle of Dutch Courage.

He wears a jacket made from tanned hides and dyed black, somewhat faded from daily wear, which is covered by a kirtle fashioned from some blueish textile. His trousers also are  made from this blue material as are the trousers of one of the other two youths. He is shod with black laced boots and upon his wrists he bears bands of leather with small spikes–too dull and small to be of any real use in combat; even so, he still might be a warrior or guard of some sort with his stature and bearing. If so, then he is a fool to venture out at night with two fragile youths, no weapons, and drunk to boot. This will be almost too easy for her. Just the same, Azraelle likes his hardy look and thinks he might last for a considerable time under her strenuous attentions. She shall spare him during this strike so she might enjoy him at her leisure.

A towheaded stripling sits across from the bruiser wearing a jacket of the blue material and covered in embroidered badges bearing legends delineated in such elaborate fonts that they are nearly indecipherable. Perhaps they are clan identifiers of some kind. On his feet are welted shoes soled with white rubber, which she took for a modern variation of the Medieval turnshoe. His drinking buddy, another slightly built lad, wears a black surcoat under which he sports the requisite execrable tunic, a pair of black trousers and on his feet a pair of small welted boots with yellow stitching. A ginger, with a mop of untamed wavy coppery locks which frame his freckled face like a ring of flames. Both he and the blond boy are so impossibly young and fair, their life breath will be a honey-sweet nectar on her parched tongue.

The ginger stands and turns towards the gravestones, stumbling in Azraelle’s direction, but does not see her. Even so, she retreats a step behind a yew tree to keep her presence a secret until she is ready to advance. Staggering over to a monumental pillar, he unbuckles his belt but struggles with his fly as he looks up to see a white face in the shadows. Frozen with fear, he relieves his bladder in his pants once he sees the dama funesto appear before him.

She offers hims an unsettling toothy smile before her jaw unhinges and drops a considerable distance from her topmost denture. Her obsidian pupils roll up into her skull, revealing opalescent eye-whites. Mesmerized by the horrific display before him, he does not see her bony fingers wrap around his head, digging their ruby-red nails into the base of his skull. Moving in an osculatory manner, she rushes into his face and begins to suck. The slight framed younker shudders spasmodically for a moment as his flesh withers and he collapses like a push puppet.

The other boys, a few yards away, unaware of their friend’s fate carry on for a moment drinking and carousing until a thunderclap accompanied by a streak of lightning reminds them of his absence. The towheaded youth turns to look for his friend, but finds an unexpected party-crasher in his stead. Her long black hair  undulating wildly in the rising wind about her head like Medusa’s snakes, Azraelle’s black gaze falls upon his pale unfledged face, marking it for doom. Before he can utter a cry she descends upon him with a speed and fury he would not have expected from someone so spindly. Thrusting her talons under his chin, she hooks him like a fish, then draws him close for a baneful kiss.

The bruiser, slow to action stands up and shouts “Oi!” as he pulls a spring-loaded blade from his trouser pocket.  Making short work of her second course, she turns to the failed sentinel of the group and smiling informs him, in Latin, how he will have the honor of being her guest for the evening. Frightened and foggy-headed, in faux defiance he sneers and says that he doesn’t speak dago. To which Azraelle just smiles then, in a trice, disarms him, scoops him up, throws him over her shoulder and scurries back to the burrow in the crypt, down through the myriad tunnels to her abysmal lair. Her unwitting accomplice, the rain, came down so heavily the remainder of the night, that it drowned out the music box which continued to blare its discordant strains to the unlistening ears in the cemetery, nor could anyone in the neighboring houses hear Azraelle’s latest victim as he swore and cried and screamed and pleaded for his life for hours before it was eventually snuffed out. As luck would have it, the only one who could hear him could not understand a word he said–nor did she care to. For to her it was only the sweet plaintive song of a captive bird in a cage.

The Toilette of Azraelle the Litch Queen

Posted in Gothic Horror, Gothic Prose with tags , , on January 15, 2014 by Manuel Paul Arenas

This is my latest prose poem, one of my Gothic Vignettes, if you will. It started off as a fluff piece but turned dark fast, so I changed the name of the character to Azraelle, a feminization of  Azrael, the angel of death. I have used this character before in my poem “Black Hymeneal”, which also started off as a harmless fluff piece then turned dark. Recently I recalled a version of the character appearing in a very vivid dream back in the 90’s. Below is a rendition of Life-in-Death from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by author / illustrator Mervin Peake (of “Gormenghast” fame), which is a close approximation of how she appeared in the dream. The Azraelle of my poem and the following story has darker hair and more flesh, sort of like Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, only not so cute.

Mervyn Peake's 1943 rendition of Life-in-Death from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's

Mervyn Peake’s 1943 rendition of Life-in-Death from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.

And so, without further ado, I give you “The Toilette of Azraelle the Litch Queen”…

Azraelle rises with the sunset and performs her nightly ablutions using a lachrymal vase, brimful of tears culled from the doleful eyes of children she has orphaned. Steeping in her sitz-bath, she moons over abattoirs and scaffolds as she drifts off again to the cacophony of pain and horror which wafts through the vents from the dungeons below.

A tugging at her mane breaks her reverie as a vodou zombie haltingly drags a comb through her ebon locks; with a forcefulness that belies her cadaverous appearance, the zombie grips and pulls the osseous comb fashioned from the phalanges of a minikin hand.

Her undead eyes peer into the inky lustre of  Azraelle’s tresses while her ghastly noggin slowly bobs as if hovering at the pulling vortex of the black hole that is the quintessence of Azraelle’s edacious anima. Otherwise catatonic, she does not even register a wince as she is buffeted with an oath and a handful of salt by her grim mistress for clumsily forging through a snag in the sable cascade before her.

As the zombie lumbers back to her cell, licking and snapping her chops like a dog with peanut butter in its mouth, Azraelle saunters over to her vanity to “put her face on”. The maintenance of her awesome visage is of the utmost concern for our vainglorious Litch Queen. Her routine involves a poultice of mixt martyr’s blood and ashes to blanch her ashen face. The latter of which she oft times uses like kohl around her large black eyes to give her that hollow haunted look; the former of which she also mixes with a tallow wax made from the rendered offal from her evening’s slaughter to color her livid lips, the remainder she then has her minions employ in the fabrication of the candles which illuminate her tenebrous chamber.

Seated in her velvet cushioned bench, she reaches for a vial with long bloodless fingers, her rubicund talons clinking on the adjacent mirror glass as her bony digits close around the tiny bottle. Scooping a few droplets within her sharpened ruby nails, she dabs a masking fragrance onto  her long pale throat, suggestive less of a swan than the stretched gullet of the hanged man.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the reflective surface, she pauses to smile, large red lips retracting to reveal what the philosopher Seneca called her “eager teeth”.  For she whom the poet Horace once referred to as pallida Mors is the reason your grandsires used to cover mirrors in the death room. Woe betide the unwary soul which flew to the uncovered looking glass, for it is she whom they would find looking back from the other side, hungry Azraelle and her gaping maw of eternity.

Painted and perfumed, she moves on to her armoir to select the evening’s cerements. Thumbing past the dresses in her closet, she muses “Black for dark deeds? Red for bloody? Nay, let it be white, for I shall turn it red by the end of this night!”

And so ends the toilette of Azraelle the Litch Queen, and thus begins her nightly hunt for a hapless soul to swallow.