A book cover, showing a man wearing a hoodie. The title is
Ashtar Deza
by Ashtar Deza
10 min read

Categories

  • Fiction

Tags

  • Ghost story
  • Horror
Content warnings: Graphic Depictions Of Violence, Self-harm, Death, Rape, Suicide Attempts, Alcohol Abuse/Alcoholism, Trauma

This is a ghost story. This means it’s a story about bitterness, regret and loss. A story about how sometimes our mistakes come back to haunt us.

This is chapter 14 out of 21. - I post a chapter per week.

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Previous Chapter


14

RuneMaster took out a scuffed leather pouch. When he opened it, the rich scent of tobacco filled the room. He proceeded to roll a cigarette with practised motions. His eyes never left my face, fingers moving as if they had a mind of their own. After he had finished rolling, he spoke.

“You are part of a triad. One living, one dead, and one caught in between. The power of three is a universal constant: Maiden, mother, and crone. Birth, life, and death. Even the cursed Christians stumbled upon some truth there with their Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. You’d almost give them credit if they hadn’t blatantly stolen it.”

He took out a cheap plastic lighter and continued.

“The three of you are bonded through love, pain, and death. The ties that bind you are grounded in some of the strongest ways known to power magical works. You have unwittingly created an immensely potent occult construct, and that is what gives this ghost his strength.”

I swallowed hard.

“So, how do I break this? Is there a way?”

“There is. She is the key to all of it. She is the axis around which the triad revolves. As long as she is caught between worlds, you and John will be bonded. Take her out of the equation, and he’ll be weakened. Not gone, mind you, but weakened.”

“What the hell are you saying? That I should kill her? I can’t do that. I’m no….”

My voice trailed off as the truth hit me again. I had been about to say that I was no murderer, but that wasn’t true. I was most definitely a murderer. I had been ever since that night, and I always would be.

“It’s her being in between which grounds the triad. Bringing her either completely back to the living or all the way to the dead would nullify that grounding. So, killing or waking her would both work. But are you a doctor? Can you wake her? No? Well, that leaves you with only one realistic option.

Also, brother, not to put a fine point on it, but her waking up would probably cause you a whole new world of trouble. If she has any memories of that night, you will most likely spend the rest of your life in a cage. A short life at that, since it would prevent you from performing the Rite. You’d be a sitting duck, even for a weakened ghost.”

He was seriously starting to piss me off. I didn’t need his high and mighty attitude. Even though his words made infuriating sense, I still felt judged.

“Rite? Another fucking rite? I just told you I was done bleeding and sacrificing!”

His face hardened.

“Quit your whining. You earned some of my respect by going through with the runes, but if you’re going to act like a little bitch here, I’ll toss you out on your ass, and wish your ghost friend the best of luck.”

His voice dropped low, despite us being alone.

“What I’m about to tell you is something few people know. It’s an ancient Germanic rite of power. It scared the Romans so much that they tried to stamp it out, expunging all records of it. It will take the power of this triad, turn it against John, and then sever the bond forever. Rest easy. After today, you won’t need to sacrifice any more of your own body.”

He paused for a moment, lit the cigarette, and took a long, deep drag. I found myself bracing for what came next.

“But as you well know by now, power always comes at a price. We will not simply give you this knowledge.”

A whole sequence of thoughts started running through my head. This was how it went. They pretended to help you out of the goodness of their hearts, the first one is always free. And then, when you really needed help, that’s when they’d start shaking you down. I had thought these guys were different, but of course, they weren’t. I’d been a fool to come here.

I didn’t bother to hide the anger in my voice:

“Do I look like I have any money?”

I started to get up, but his words made me freeze mid-motion.

“Shut your mouth and sit your ass down. Now.

There was a note of command in his voice that made my body respond before my mind had even finished processing the words.

“Any fool can see that you have no money, and I am no fool. We don’t want or need your money, Wodan provides for his own. The price we demand is one of loyalty and commitment.”

All the fight drained out of me instantly, and I was left feeling deflated. I just blinked at him, then nodded for him to go on.

“The things we have shown you so far, you could have found on your own, if you had searched hard enough. This knowledge is different. It is a closely guarded secret. It may never be shared with the uninitiated. If you wish to learn, you must first pledge to walk the path of Wodan. You must become a true Son of Wodan.”

I nodded again. After all I’d been through, the least I could do was hear him out.

“Becoming a Son is a commitment for life. It means dedicating your life to the pursuit of wisdom, power, and righteousness, regardless of what mere human laws say. It means swearing to always stand by a brother in need, and giving him any and all aid he requires. And, it means keeping our secrets. This is a covenant with Wodan. Break it, and we will hunt you down, rip out your tongue, stuff your mouth with your eyes and balls, and hang you from the highest tree as a sacrifice to the Allfather.”

There was no malice in his voice, as if he was stating a simple fact. I was very sure it was not an empty threat.

I swallowed hard again. This was so far beyond anything I had ever imagined or wanted, but I did not see any other way out. If I was going to end up hanging from a rope, I’d rather have it be the Sons than John. With them, I at least stood a fighting chance.

It was also very clear to me that if I walked away now, it was no use coming back. I had seen enough to know that Wodan wasn’t known for his forgiving nature any more than Tîw was.

With a deep sigh, I met his gaze.

“Alright. What do I do?”


I got the abbreviated version of the initiation. Normally, there would have been tests of courage and willpower, but with all I’d gone through with the runes, I had apparently proven myself worthy enough to satisfy the requirements.

He made me take off my shirt and pants, and had me kneeling on the floor in my boxer shorts. The old linoleum felt cold and slightly sticky on my skin. I was told to keep my eyes closed. Then, I heard the sound of steel on steel. Almost simultaneously, my head was yanked back hard by a cruel grip on my hair, and I felt a cold sensation pressing against my throat. RuneMaster was now close enough that I could smell the stale nicotine on his breath.

“The blade you’re feeling right now is my athame. It’s sharp enough to shave with. If you so much as move a muscle, or open your eyes before I tell you to, I’ll cut your throat with it. You will not speak unless spoken to. Now, I just mopped this floor yesterday, and I really don’t feel like having to do it again. So, do us both a favour and comply. Tap your right hand on your knee twice if you understand. Move only your hand.”

Being very careful to keep as still as I absolutely could, I tapped my knee twice.

He made me recite a long and complicated pledge, saying it for me sentence by sentence, making me repeat it after him. I stumbled over the words, and twice he had to correct me. He was unexpectedly steady and patient. He just kept going until I got it right. All the while, his grip never wavered, and the blade never left my throat.

I pledged my allegiance to Wodan and his Sons, swearing to lay down my life in his service if called upon to do so. I swore to seek out wisdom and power by all means necessary, and to share what I had learned and gained with my brothers. There were some things in the pledge regarding purity, and who I would share my seed with, that gave me an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. Considering my sex life, or lack of it, I figured it wasn’t much of a big deal.

Finally, he released his grip, and the pressure from the blade disappeared. I thought this meant it was over, but he told me to stay still, and wait for him to return. I heard his footsteps retreat. I must have sat there for a good five minutes, my legs going numb from sitting in that uncomfortable kneeling position on the cold floor. My ass itched, and I had to resist the urge to scratch it, not knowing if he was watching me or not.

Just as I was considering to risk it, I heard his footsteps coming back, accompanied by a low hissing sound. I did not like the sound of this at all.

“Sit still, you’re almost done. This is going to hurt, but if I hear any sound over a grunt out of you, you’ll have failed. That would mean I’ll be mopping my floor after all.”

I focused on keeping my breathing steady. The hand in my hair returned, but I didn’t feel the blade at my throat yet. I was sure it would be there in an instant if I moved. The next moment, an intense pain shot through my upper right arm, accompanied by a sizzling sound. The smell of burning flesh filled my nose, turning my stomach. I almost bit my tongue in an effort to keep myself from screaming, but I managed to keep it in. I let out a grunt and a low moan, but that was it.

“You did well, brother. When you kneeled down on this floor, you were nobody. Just another sheep. Now you are a wolf. Open your eyes and rise, Son of Wodan.”

Unsteady I got to my feet, and saw him holding a small gas torch and branding iron in the shape of the “W” the Sons used. The same design that was now burned into my arm.

He pulled up his own sleeve, to show the matching brand on his own arm.

“Show this to any brother, and they’ll know you to be one of us. They’ll help you with whatever trouble you have. In kind, you are bound to help any who carry this mark.”

He smiled at me, the unusual expression turning his face into a patchwork of deep lines. I noticed he seemed to look different in general. The stoop to his shoulders was gone, his back was straight, and the way he carried himself took a decade off his age. Also, I noticed how one of his eyes didn’t quite move when he looked at me. I could have sworn it looked alive earlier, but now it was an obvious glass fake. Had it been like that before? I couldn’t remember. I shook my head and dismissed the thoughts. I had more important things to worry about.

He gestured for me to sit, and took the seat opposite of me. As his fingers started to roll another cigarette out of their own accord, he started talking.

“So, let us rid you of this ghost for good. Let me teach you the Rite of Heart and Bone.”

Next Chapter

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