Three Masked Peddlers

  This fantastical entry by Rzr Saocru ( ) is more than just an illustration - a short story accompanies it! Settle in and enjoy the tale (Please forgive the lack of paragraph indentations, my PHP coding can only read straight text): ~~~ *** ~~~ They came every Halloween to the city of Anduruna. Three masked peddlers, vulpine in appearance, but unusually lithe and sinewy, always appeared in the week of Halloween to set up shop on some street corner to hawk strange trinkets and curiosities in the evenings to those brave enough to investigate their stand. On Halloween night, however, a small group of children would always approach the stand at exactly midnight. The tallest of the masked trio, a gray-furred dreamkeeper with piercing yellow eyes, would leave his brethren to tend the stand and sit across the street with the young ones. Seating himself on a pumpkin, he would tell stories. Whether there was an enchantment in the hour or a magic in his voice, the masked one would open his mouth and set loose upon the group tales that they could only have nightmares about. As he spoke, his eyes would seem to glow with an otherworldly light, a mist would descend over the group; shadows would rise from their sources and dance; creatures and monsters of every kind would rise from the ground, break from the walls, crawl out from beneath the skins of the children and form from his very breath. He told them tales of fire, of vengeance, of ice and remorse. He told them tales that would freeze their blood and haunt their imaginings. The group sat huddled around him, not bearing to leave until each story had run its course; only Mace and Namah would be listening with ill-contained eagerness, enjoying the moment of horror; only Bast would sit back, feigning disinterest despite the gnawing terror in his stomach. The masked one would tell them stories where time would rupture, where warriors fought ethereal terrors, where madmen ruled the night. He would tell them stories where curses came to life, where death was only a new beginning, and where nightmares were very, very real. Many a time had each of the children where their darkest fears were realized in the masked one’s stories. He told them new ones every year, and each Halloween was different than the others. However, there was a constant that intrigued the group. Many, if not all, of the masked peddler’s most unusual stories had depictions of one to three beings bearing striking similarities to the merchants; in fact, some starred the peddlers outright. Despite the horrors that populated his tales, despite the countless fates of the other dreamkeepers that he recounted, the indicated characters would always remain. Once, Namah asked him if he could tell them a story where the constant characters died. “I can’t,” he had said, “For if we had died, then I wouldn’t be here to tell you the story.” Then, like every year, he and his brothers packed their things and disappeared from Anduruna until the next Halloween. The children never could sleep well when they got home.







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