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IODINE, THE SALLOW NIGHTMARE (#666)

Iodine, the Sallow Nightmare

You are a WITCH known the land over. You have a garden where everything is allowed to become anything else. Your magic spawns from lizard scales. You are a translator of the forgotten dead, their tales etched upon your flesh. YOU SEE WHAT MORTALS CANNOT IMAGINE!

SINCE THE FIRST BREATH OF THEIR CREATION, Iodine saw what others could not.

Things flickered at the edge of their bed, in the cracks of their walls, in the space between real and unreal, loved and unloved. Beneath the arc of the shadows at their door, gazes transparent and awed and pleading, huddled lost spirits grasping for a glimpse of the chosen.

These dead were unobtrusive, at first. They had been young once. They knew that power was something to let froth and bubble, to knead and lay to rest before roasting beneath the heat of prophecy. Iodine observed them with curiosity. These souls seemed but a reflection of what they knew the dead to be. While traditional necromancy attuned Iodine to the confused, clamorous whimpers of the recently deceased, their personal dead were different. Austere. Patient. Unseen to any but them. The ghosts’ eyes glimmered with a kind of hope long refused and only recently unearthed, the dirt of doubt and resignation to damnation yet to be brushed from its careful, lustrous surface.

These dead were unobtrusive, at first. They had been young once. They knew that power was something to let froth and bubble, to knead and lay to rest before roasting beneath the heat of prophecy.

The six hundred and sixty sixth WITCH manifested. The knower of dead long forgotten. The translator of their woe. For many moons, Iodine knelt in their garden, unaware of this burden. They massaged the earth looking for shed lizard skins, picked at the scales to grind to a poultice and enhance their power. They waited for the dead to whisper, to ask them some favor with voices like wind moving through reeds, but never heard their sound. They let their curiosity go.

It was only on Iodine's six hundred and sixty sixth day of life that the words appeared. First, on their palm. Then, spiraling like storms of ink with each in and exhale, words wrapped around their wrists and arms, climbed over their chest and waist like the veins beneath their skin. The words appeared quicker than they could read, wove tales faster than they could follow with their eyes, flowed from one name to the next in a river of despair and dreams. The quiet spirits, usually at a distance, rushed forward in shock. They dumped lizard scales at Iodine's feet in waves, knelt with their heads bent to the ground in supplication. The necromancer gathered the offerings and ground a few between their teeth. They began to read.

With each sentence the dead were remembered. Memories, secrets, trials, treatises; eulogies for those gone far too long without rest. The stories lifted from Iodine's skin and dissipated to ether. Iodine pressed scales between their mortar and pestle, smoothed the powder over their arms and legs and chest. New words formed. The ghosts took Iodine's hands in theirs as they flickered once more, evanesced one and then another and another in clouds of ink-dripped dust. Rest, at last. Rest beneath the triumphant tongue of IODINE, THE SALLOW NIGHTMARE.

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