Entry for the Phantom's Haunting Halloween Contest
Summary: The Persian court is not a nice place. There is a playground in one of the courtyards - but the children who play there are monsters. One of them wears a mask.
Of course you have heard of various myths. Nearly every religion, from the most archaic to the modern religions, has a concept of evil, some devil, some entity that causes all pain and death and evil in the world. Early paganian myths in Hungary called him Ördög. Turkish myth called him Erlik Khan. Erlik Khan.
In Turkic mythology, Erlik was the deity of evil, darkness, lord of the lower world and judge of the dead. He is known as the first of mankind, created by Ulgen. He wants to be equal to Ulgen, but is in a position inferior to him. Then he wanted to make his own land and was sent to the prison at the 9th layer of the earth and became opposed to the upper world, the realm of light.
The evil spirits created by Erlik cause misfortune, sickness and death to mankind. These spirits are imagined as Erlik's assistants. Besides these, his nine sons and daughters help their father in the way of evil. Erlik's daughters especially try to change a shaman's mind while he is attempting to reach Ulgen with their beauties. Erlik gives all kinds of sickness and wants sacrifices from the people. If they do not sacrifice to him, he catches the dead bodies of the people that he killed and takes them away to this lower world and then makes them his slaves. So, especially in the Altays, when sickness appears, people become scared of Erlik and make many animal sacrifices to him.
In the prayers of shamans, Erlik is described as a monster, having the face and teeth of a pig combined with a human body. Besides his face, he is an old man with a well-built body, black eyes, eyebrows and mustache.
Sounds familiar in the Persian court, far too familiar. For there walks a shady figure in the Shah's great palace that fits that description perfectly. Only he does not have the face of a pig, he is not that handsome. Of course, a few months ago, everyone would laugh at the mere thought of such paganic superstition, especially when they saw what was brought before the Shah and his harem favourite, the Sultana. It was a young man, young, very young, almost a child. Just another street-vagrant boy, close to starvation, in filthy rags. Of course everyone mocked him. All laughed, the Shah, everyone. Everyone except two people. One was the Daroga who had been sent to fetch that miserable wretch and the other one was the Sultana.
She, who had grown up in a world of expensive silk, jewels and perfume, who had never known thist or hunger or coldness, who had always been surrounded by slaves who eagerly tried to please her - if only to avoid punishment - she, the very essence of beauty, felt drawn to this creature. A creature who seemed not even to be a man at all.
Of course the Shah would not let a man go in and out of the harem just like that. He had the creature tested, invited him to a party where much wine was served that surely did melt away most men's self-control and modesty. There were beautiful slave girls and boys lasciviously dancing. And there were the eyes and ears of the Shah dutifully watching the young magician. The masked boy showed no reaction at all to the dancing girls. Absolutely nothing, unlike other men in the room, no matter how any of them tried to entice him. So they finally drew the only logical conclusion: This poor deformed boy was incapable of taking a woman, that he was no man at all.
They were wrong.
A child he might have been in years of his body, but not in his mind. For in his mind was demon older than time itself, a demon that had helped Ulgen create the world itself. This ancient dark spirit was in the scrawny frame of a teenage boy.
Of course everyone laughed when he put on his red and black magician's robes that became fancier each time he performed his illusions. Never had anyone seen such vanity in a boy, especially when the boy was a freak of nature, a living corpse. He seemed to be oblivious of all this, endured the mockery and humiliation, he seemed to be immune. All he cared about was the applause of one person, a girl, already the Shah's favourite, but not a wife. Just a harem girl who won his heart due to black magic she performed in his bed - at least if one cared to listen to rumors. He seemed to live only for a smile on her lips.
So he began to build a playground for them. A playground that was in fact a large magician's box with many secret doors and trapdoors, walls shifting and creating a whole new room at his command. One could play hide and seek for days without seeing the same room twice. And that was what they did, playing hide and seek like very small children. They were childish and innocent in their games.
Until one day the magician appeared dressed from head to toe in black. The girl would watch from a balcony above where she could see the whole movable labyrinth.
The magician in his black robes and black masked paced to and fro, never leaving the eyes of the other man who was going to face him in combat. The other man was a criminal, condemned to death for trying to murder a member of the royal family. If this was true or not was not known, let's say it was at least possible.
There was something odd about the magician that day. He no longer gave the impression of being a boy, he didn't even look human any more. Of course the outer shape was human-like, but in his black robes, with the black mask and the piercing yellow eyes he looked more like an animal, a predator, his unblinking stare fixed on his chosen prey. The magician's movements were not gracile as that of a large cat like a panther, they were more like a wolf pacing up and down before he would begin to hunt his prey to ist death.
He did not show any kind of fear or even hesitation as he climbed down into the labyrinth like his chosen prey did. The game had begun, the hunt started.
It was impossible for the victim to find out where he was as soon as the magician began moving the mirrored walls around him. The dark figure seemed to do nothing at all as he approached his victim who was helplessly running in a small cycle, unaware that he was not getting anywhere at all. Then suddenly the dark magician appeared out of nowhere - seemingly coming out of a mirror-wall. The condemned man stumbled backwards in his shock at facing the black figure with the unblinking yellow eyes. But the masked magician did not attack at all, he did not want to. Like a cat playing with a mouse he just waited what the other man would do.
The condemned man didn't know what to do at first, he knew that if he would kill the magician he would be free, so running away would do no good because he might be executed otherwise - but rational thought wasn't possible in this maddening labyrinth of twisting and turning mirrors that reflected the magician's terrifying appearance so often the doomed man soon did no longer know which one was the magician and which one was only the reflection.
And the suddenly all the mirrors sank into the floor and the man saw that he was in a courtyard, all doors closed and heavily guarded. He was in a wide courtyard with the magician who suddenly did not look that terrifying without the maze of mirrors around him. He attacked and the magician avoided each of the strokes of the broad sword easily without needing any weapons.
And then the magician began to counter the attacks. It looked like a macabre dance with them moving back and forth, sometimes turning, dancing around each other, locked in a deadly movement - whoever would stay still would surely meet his end then and there.
That moment the dark magician experienced real magic that made the world feel suddenly utterly unreal and dreamlike. He stepped out of his own body. He took a step back, moved a bit to the side and watched as his body continued the fight. If anything the body alone seemed to be much stronger, now that it was free of the limitations of the mind holding it back. It removed the mask, revealing his death's head. "I am death incarnate!" he exclaimed in a voice that seemed to come directly from heaven and was as seductive as the devil's, "Come to me - and die!"
Then he attacked. He did not need weapons, he somehow disarmed his opponent with just a piece of rope and then attacked with his bare hands. The magician himself stood by, watching in horrified fascination the fierce attacks his body did on its own, the other man backing away and finally falling to his knees, trying to protect his head with his arms. Blow after blow hit him like the hammers of a hammer mill, unyielding, never tiring or even slowing down or lacking intenstity. The young magician stood there and felt - nothing. Peace. This was peace. He was outside of that body that lived on its own and he could watch in cold indifference because whatever happened there had nothing to do with him. He was away, on another plane of existance, and what happened there mere meters from where he stood was so far away it could have been on the other side of the universe.
And then he was suddenly back in his body. Not really, he saw from behind his eyes like one looks though two small windows some meters away from one's face. He saw his hands covered in blood, heard nothing but his own heartbeat. He saw the eyes of the kneeling man before him roll back into his head as his heart stopped beating.
Suddenly the reality of what had just happened hit the young man and he himself sank to his knees, breathing heavily, struggling to control his breath and racing heartbeat, the pain in his hands that made it absolutely impossible to move one finger now, his empty stomach turning, his head spinning as he still was unable to hear anything around him or see anything but the dirty sand on the ground, splashed with blood and something other he didn't want to contemplate what it was.
Strong hands reached for him, picked him up and someone led him to a small door. There was a room prepared for him, a narrow cot to lie down, water to drink and water to wash his hands. And then everything went black.
In the days after that no one mocked the freak, calling him an abomination or an animal. No one called him a stupid boy or a fraud any more. He heard the name "Erlik Khan" whispered behind his back until he decided to adopt that name from now on, especially after he found out who Erlik Khan was in ancient myth.
They sat in a beautiful garden, enjoying the cool shadows and a cup of that strong and sweet tea.
"It is impossible that the soul leaves the body and returns," the Daroga, a man of rational thought, stated firmly.
The young man at his side smiled sadly. "It scares me now, but it happened several times after that. What scares me is that I have absolutely no control over that - it can happen any time when I am under stress and I have no idea what my body does if I leave it. All I know is that I enjoy the peace that comes from leaving this world and standing by, just watching without acting. I do not know where the tremendous speed and strength comes from, I do not posses it when I am in my body. When I am here, now, it scares me... it scares me to no end..."
"And still you adopted the name Erlik Khan."
The young man chuckled like the teenager he was. "It is a fitting name for one such as me, isn't it?"
The Daroga looked at the young man at his side, wondering how this innocent boy and the demon fighting in the pit could be one and the same man, wondering if it was true what the boy had just told him - that he left his body during the fight and another entity took the body and turned it into a killing machine. Or was this just the twisted fantasy of a tormented child unable to cope with what he had done?
This is a one-shot. So no more chapters or explanations. It is in no way related to my other fanfics.
Thank you for reading and please review!