“A door was left ajar. And through that door, darkness poured out.”
As the last of the day’s light winked out from behind the trees, Iosif closed his door and set the latches. There was a chill in the night, he thought; the snows would come early this year. He took up the lantern and carried it through into the main room of the cabin, setting it down on the centre of the wooden table. He fetched his pipe and tobacco from the inside pocket of his jacket, and began to pack the small clay bowl. The light from the lantern flickered slightly, casting unusual shadows against the walls. Iosif stopped momentarily and sniffed the air. The moment passed and he set to packing his pipe again.
The sudden gust of wind nearly knocked Iosif off his feet, scattering books and ornaments and taking the pipe from his hand. An orange light flew across the room and died against the wall as the lantern shattered. The wind was followed by the strong, acrid smell of meat left too long on the spit. As Iosif steadied himself and his eyes adjusted to the near-darkness inside the cabin, he caught sight of a dull grey-green light spilling out from his bedroom. Pulling himself upright, he made his way out through the doorway.
What greeted him was a sight he could scarcely believe. Where his bedroom had once stood there was now nothing – a vast hole had been carved out of the surrounding material, as if a massive sphere had simply deleted whatever was there before. In the centre of the sphere, suspended several metres above the ground, was a pulsing greenish ball of what looked for all the world like electricity. As the ball pulsed it cast strange shadows across the broken earth, shapes that made Iosif’s mind reel, but he could not comprehend the source of these penumbra.
Making the sign of the cross, Iosif began to back away. It was then that he heard the first terrified scream, followed by another, then shouts of alarm and the sharp crack of gunfire. He turned to run and was suddenly engulfed by many limbs, barbed and hooking deep into his flesh, dragging him down into the wet dirt. His own scream soon joined the others, but was cut short, dying in his throat as the darkness enveloped him.
Sculpting by Glauco Longhi
In Slavic mythology, Drekavacs are said to be the souls of unbaptised children cursed to roam the world forever. In Shattered Earth, they are the lowliest foot-soldiers of the Deathless. Whether the old myth is true or not is largely irrelevant; whatever ‘role’ they once had has now been largely forgotten. Instead, ‘Dreks’ as they are called by most of humanity were the first beings from the immateria to set foot on Earth after the Breaking of the World – the herald of what was to come.
They manifest as small bipedal creatures, more bone and sinew than most Shadow-aspected Deathless, their smokey-skin stretched tight across their forms. They are utterly alien, devoid of reason save for the instinct to hunt and kill, swarming over their prey and tearing them limb from limb. On its own, a single Drekavac poses little problem for a trained soldier, but in numbers they can decimate the unprepared.