It has been two days since the events of that night and I am still at a loss to explain what happened, all I know for certain is that a good man died.
It had been an extraordinary evening and the lads were in fine spirit as we sat in the empty bar and made our best attempts to drink the place dry. Certainly, no one seemed perturbed by the hounded and uneasy appearance of the staff.
I had stepped outside to take a breath as they descended on yet another case of wine. The scent that filled the air that night was even more pungent than normal. Raw effluent is common in the streets here but this caught the back of my throat and was almost enough to make me wretch. It was some time before I noticed Meni laying prostrate in the shadows. I thought nothing of it as I knew he had been engaged in several drinking competitions already that evening but still made my way over to check on him. It wasn’t until I drew closer that I saw ‘IT’.
At first I thought it nothing more than a wisp of smoke, a small cloud from a hearth fire or recently extinguished lamp, but then it turned on me. It actually turned to look at me and I saw its true form. It hung in the air like smoke but as it turned it seemed to undulate like some grotesque liquid filled sack, but most startling of all were the ghastly glowing red eyes. As they pierced me I felt frozen to the spot and completely paralysed. It drew nearer and would have been on me had it not been for the doors bursting open and a handful of my men spilling into the street. It turned away from me and, as it’s gaze fell on them, my senses returned. I let out a cry which drew the lads attention and it fled through the streets. I ordered the men to see to Meni and I gave chase.
I don’t know why I followed the thing. I was still reeling from the sight of those glowing red eyes and the sense of petrifying fear that had riveted me to the spot mere moments ago, but it had attacked one of my men, one of my friends and I could not let that stand. It moved quickly, too quickly for me at times but whenever I felt I had lost it the stench would return to lead me. The streets grew darker as I ran full tilt into the shadows. It was as I rounded a corner that I saw it pass into the doorway of a dark hut. Steeling my nerves and taking the last lit lamp in sight I pressed on, running hard enough to make my heart burst I hit the rotten door and it flew apart throwing me to the floor. Looking up from the ground I saw the hideous thing glowering at me as it slowly slid through the lid of a huge wooden chest that stood against the back wall of this wrecked shack. Scrambling to my feet I grasped the lid and, with some effort, prized it open. The sight that greeted me put my constitution to the test and almost won. A corpse lay wrapped in rags with a strange winged black necklace that rested on it’s chest.
It was then that I swear I saw the thing stir. Whether it was just my senses playing tricks in the light I can not say but I cannot call the next few moments to memory. I remember turning the chest over, dashing the lamp against it and fleeing as the flames bloomed from the spilled oil.
Running again through the dark streets, this time towards the faint glow of the lodgings and the hope of finding Meni ready to greet me with a bawdy tale of his encounter as was his norm. It was not to be. Meni lay where I had left him with all the lads crowded round. I pushed my way through them to find my friend struggling to catch his breath. He looked old, drawn and sickly. He saw me as I drew near to him but as his eyes fell on my outstretched hand a look of terror crossed his face the likes of which I have never seen in him. He raised a shaking finger, pointed at my hand, and with the last breath in his body yelled “Khu, Khu”. It was then that I realised I was holding the necklace that had been around the corpses neck. The men backed away from me in horror as if I were leprous. Meni lay dead at my feet.
I do not know what this black scarab is but I am determined to find out. Meni was a good man and a close friend. I have fought by his side for many years and I have never seen him afraid in the face of danger.

The Black Scarab

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