Weird Book entries

The Weird Book, Chapter 23, The Preying cities

After the Darkness, a flood of strange stories surfaced concerning cities that behaved more like predacious beasts than hamlets hewn of brick and glass. The most conspicuous of such a city’s attributes, which ultimately allows for a tidy paranormal categorization, lies in its eerie mobility. The “preying city” label speaks directly to a supernatural town’s capacity to mobilize its wickedness, appearing anywhere and with nary an outward sign of its intrinsic foulness. However, many Dark Scholars have been quick to point out that such cities are not endemic to the Post Noctum period (anytime after the Great Darkness), and have been reported as early as prehistoric times. For instance, the malefic and creeping city known as “Wrotha,” with its gigantic and terrible occupants—the Hanuminn—has been persistent within a number of the earliest known myth cycles, and its crawling likeness even appears painted across prehistoric cave walls, where primitive men are known to have drawn shelter from the elements.
Of course, traditional historians remand such stories of monstrous cities into the hands of folklorists, and find that the Darkness has had the troubling effect of shifting the boundaries between academia and the arcane, for after the Darkness very little is understood to be without its intrinsic strangeness.

An excerpt from Brian Cleveland’s short story, “The Tale of the Hunting City”

“The city drifted into view, revealing at first only the typical trappings of a city lost to the country side and denuded of modern attire. It was like a ramshackle rube sitting in the scrub brush of an uncombed field, patiently attending to the cultivation of weed and willow. Its humble appearance was disarming and recalled quaint memories of childhood forays into the countryside and berried thickets. But as the city was drawn more sharply against the fading sky, solidifying beyond the fragrant smokes of childhood recollection and flotsam of dream, the strange town found it difficult to conceal its perversion.  It now seemed to swell from the unkempt field like a tumor of poisonous skin, threatening to reach beyond its broken buildings and cracked, weed punctured roads. It wanted to free itself into the wind, spreading spores of broken glass and wood-rot to draw together and grow in distant fields, and to haunt the open hills with the lurching forms of olden, dead houses.
I saw more of the squatting and wicked hamlets peering out from behind thickets and from between narrow hills, growing up from broken stone and weathered wood. And I knew that no human population had ever wandered those city streets, or lit lamps in its dark rooms to ward off the darkness of night, and that no men had ever carved its infant timbers into the mature shapes of houses.”

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Weird Book entries

From Chapter 5 of the Weird Book: Black Helen, The Mother of Dead Children

Few things in life are as devastating as the loss of a child. Children are humanity’s foremost symbol of innocence: icons of purity wrapped in rosy cheeks, pigtails, and silly conversations. So it is no wonder that the human psyche would create deities—divine mechanisms through which impossible feats can be performed—to return those children lost prematurely to the perils of the world. While whispers of such an entity have crept across the world for quite some time, some whispers have been known to escalate into prayers, and sometimes even screams, especially within the small British hamlet of Troy. Legends of “Black Helen, The Mother of the Stillborn,” and her gruesome family line, abound in this small village, as evidence of her darkness can be recalled from virtually any corner of the nearby and foul Eeling Woods, which some say holds some special significance to the deathly goddess. The reason for this wicked sentimentality may have something to do with the ruins of a strange temple that was discovered sometime in the early 18th century (well before the construction of Troy), hidden away within one of the more remote locations of the Eeling Woods. Also, and most tellingly, the temple was reported to be possessed of a curious Egyptian build, and appeared to exalt, through a number of impressive reliefs and statuary, a woman who seemed unwholesomely preoccupied with the death of children. 

Black Helen’s origins are thought to be tethered to the biblical tale of Moses and, specifically, his curse upon the Egyptian people’s first born. While the Bible states that it was an angel who slew the Egyptians’ firstborn (those whose households were not marked with lamb’s blood), various other, albeit small, religious sects contend that it was none other than the monstrous Black Helen who soared over those ill-fated houses; and it was beneath her cold, stygian shadow, that the spirits of the firstborn are said to have been stolen. 

According to the aforementioned and fringe belief systems, the spirits of the Egyptian children were not destroyed, but were taken away—to be rebirthed into un-death by the demonic goddess; as at the very moment of the children’s apparent death, their souls were transmitted to the dark hollow of Black Helen’s stagnant womb, where they would be transformed, and later—given to an awful birth. This hideous rebirth is said to have taken place within some soaring, black pyramid, which is now believed lost to the vast reaches of the Arabian desert. 

Known as the “Ancient Children,” the reborn first sons and daughters of Egypt are said to be gigantic, hideous reincarnations of their previous selves, serving their new mother by culling the lost souls of children. These young, plucked souls are then returned to the dark matron and left to gestate in the vile amnion of her womb, only to be reborn into the world as her undead broodlings, “The Darkborne.”

The City of Troy has become especially significant to those who hold to the belief in the death goddess, as desperate believers from all over the world have been known to occasionally invade the quiet banality of the city, to place their loved dead within the Eeling wood, near the ruined temple, beneath a tiny blanket of soil, hoping the dark mother of child death might raise their fallen children from their graves, and renew them of life, limb and happiness. Such actions might have struck the citizens of Troy as simply morbid, if not for the whispered stories of lit-eyed and undead children that ride upon the backs of wild dogs, calling out the names of Troy’s most recent mothers; or the rumors of tall women wreathed in flowing black silk, pushing dark baby carriages through the benighted city streets, where the occasional claw, or fanged maw, can be dimly glimpsed to slip from the blackened recesses of her child’s conveyance. 
While Troy remains the primary source of these ghastly tales, new idols of Black Helen have been discovered all over the world, and it should come to no one’s surprise that the recent surge in the deity’s popularity and presence arrived directly after the Great Darkness. One such statue stands in a small glen located only a short drive from New Victoria, where hundreds of grieving parents have been known to flock, despite the gruesome legends of the dark mother, hoping that Black Helen will graciously return their beloved children to both home and health.

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