[Darkest Dungeons] The Cure
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Dissection reveals the contagion has dramatically altered the subject’s internal morphology. The skull, hips and several smaller bones have decalcified completely, leaving flexible, cartilaginous structures. Signs of early decalcification can be seen in other parts of the skeleton as well. Many internal organs are atrophied or missing entirely. I can find no sign of the lungs and the heart has withered to a small lump. Conversely, the organs of generation have swollen grotesquely to far larger than normal. As a widower, none can vouchsafe the subject’s original proportions but surely testes of this size would have had a noticeable effect on gait and posture.
The digestive system has suffered the most dramatic alteration, being replaced entirely by a knot of ropy muscular tissues. It is possible that some of the unaccounted for organs may be located inside this new structure, but dissection has not yet commenced on this new mass.
At this time, it is unclear how the subject was able to survive so long with these extensive physiological changes.
Paracelsus returned the quill to its holder and blew gently on the paper to dry the ink before closing the research diary. The edges of the book were stained with blood and other, less savory, fluids but these things were inevitable and therefore not worth worrying about. She dipped her fingers in a bowl of cloudy liquid, a mixture of perfume and laudanum. She dabbed the mixture under her small, slightly upturned nose and combed her fingers through her rough-cut brown hair. The vapors would keep the plague at bay while she worked.
She was dressed in a thick leather smock, stained from her work and sporting numerous pockets filled with scalpels, shears, tongs, saws and probes. She was short, scarcely five feet tall, and her heavy clothes almost completely concealed any signs of femininity. All the better, as few of her colleagues thought much of the idea of a female alchemist. Sometimes she considered binding her chest with cloth to complete the illusion but she was cursed with the curves of a wanton and it would be impossible to do so comfortably. She disliked it, an intellectual had no need for these tedious udders and she had no interest in baiting the glances of men.
She looked over at the subject spread out over the slab. A day earlier the body had been her mentor, the alchemist and surgeon Wilhelm Bombastus. She had found his body this morning, slumped over his desk. Once his infection had become clear she had pressed him to accept her most recent experimental treatment, arguing that there could be nothing to lose at this point. He had refused, claiming some nonsense about a religious awakening and pointing out the extended, agonized deaths which resulted from her previous attempts. It was nothing but cowardice, fleeing to the Light to hide from his inevitable death.
She pulled on the stained leather gloves once more and examined her latest attempt at a counteragent. As the contents of the flask reached a light boil she added mercury salts and lowered the heat. With a pair of metal tongs, she dropped a small sliver of tissue, retrieved from the corpse, into the mixture which immediately churned and frothed.
A promising reaction.
Paracelsus loaded a trio of silver syringes with the mixture. The plague struck without warning and killed quickly so it was essential to have her latest mixture ready at hand should a patient become available. Unfortunately, even face-to-face with the horrors of the contagion few were willing to accept her ministrations. The local church was full of mad fanatics, preaching that only prayer, fasting and, of course, donations could save you from the plague. The fools.
She turned back to the surgical slab, ready to continue the dissection of the odd structure in the corpse’s torso. She had to act quickly, victims of the plague tended to decay rapidly after death.
The slab was empty, save for puddles of blood and other fluids.
“Who goes there!” She shouted, uncertain and nervous. Who would make off with a half-butchered corpse? Resurrectionists abounded but those grave-robbers supplied corpses to the university, not the other way around. The clergy would certainly disapprove but they’d burst in torches blazing and gorged on self-righteousness. Even common thieves would have absconded with his clothes and medical gear, not his ruined body.
There was no answer.
Paracelsus withdrew a long, amputation scalpel from her belt and padded slowly to the door. She tested the handle and found it still locked. There was no other entrance, not even a window. She looked back at the slab. It was still empty. Was she going mad?
She approached the slab once more, probing the place where the corpse once lay with her scalpel. The copious blood and bile, still wet, stood as certain proof that a body lay here only moments before. The flask holding the corpse’s withered heart still sat on the corner of the slab.
A drop of liquid splashed on the center of the slab.
Another drop fell from above.
Paracelsus raised her eyes to the ceiling.
The creature was an unnatural mass of flesh and muscle, its body matching no known terrestrial taxonomy. A central mass of glistening tissue quivered and writhed, anchored by numerous fleshy tendrils extending from its nucleus and clinging to the rafters. Giant eyes, pitch-black like a rat’s, dotted the surface of the thing. The tattered remains of the corpse hung over the creature, her old teacher’s face sagging and wrinkled as an empty sack.
Shock froze her where she stood, face-to-face with a being she could not comprehend. Several of its eyes blinked, a few sinking completely into the thing’s mass. It shook its body like a wet dog, tearing the last few tendons holding the corpse and sending the ruined mass of skin flopping wetly to the ground.
This brok e her paralysis and she turned to flee. She tugged uselessly at the door’s handle before recalling that she had left the key by her diary. The door was thick oak and the lock was sturdy, something she had previously considered a virtue.
As she turned to lunge for the key the creature dropped from the ceiling, perching on its numerous, boneless limbs like some hideous cephalopod. It extended one questing tentacle in her direction and she slashed at it with her scalpel. The blade easily parted its flesh but it seemed to draw no blood and the creature showed no sign of pain. She barely evaded the thing’s grip by throwing herself to one side and landing painfully on the stone floor. It was now between her and the key, glinting uselessly on the bookstand.
The thing crept closer. Its gait was most unnatural, extending new tendrils from its engorged central mass and retracting others seamlessly within itself. Another arm lashed out, wrapping around her ankle before she could climb to her feet. The thing began to retract its limb, tugging her closer. Desperately, she tried to anchor herself by grabbing the leg of the table but this only spilled the entire thing to the floor. Glass shattered and tools skittered across the stained stone floors. Another of the thing’s tentacles reached out, looping under one of the straps of her smock. With a tug of its boneless limb, the thing ripped her smock open, baring her plain gray shirt and practical brown pants.
A foul gurgle emanated from within the thing and a fleshy duct opened in its body. A stream of yellow-green fluid sprayed out, soaking Paracelsus from head to toe. It smelled strongly of linden flowers and copper and her flesh tingled and itched wherever it touched.
More tentacles formed, reaching towards Paracelsus. Desperate for any edge, her eye fell on her small, glass spirit lamp. The fall had cracked, but not shattered, it and its wick still burned with a blue-white flame. She grabbed it and heaved the lamp at the fiend. The glass shattered, spraying burning spirits over the monster’s cluster of eyes. A high-pitched shriek emitted from the thing and it beat itself against the walls as its flesh burned.
She yanked her leg, attempting to break the creature’s grip, and she slipped free with the sound of tearing cloth. Her pant leg had torn free at the knee, the fabric looking frayed and rotted. With a soft sound, other splits appeared around her hips, where the fabric was stretched tightly over her hips. Her breath was coming in fast and ragged, pressing her needlessly large breasts tightly against her shirt. One by one the buttons gave way as the threads unraveled and decayed.
Even in the current situation she winced at her inability to secure a sample of this fluid. The accelerated decay was a fascinating effect that deserved to be studied further. For now, it was leaving her standing in half-shredded rags. The thing had nearly extinguished the feeble flames and seemed largely uninjured.
Pushing the distraction from her mind Paracelsus dashed to the bookstand but fell, her rotting shoes slipping on a shred of her former mentor’s discarded skin. The stone floor knocked the breath from her, leaving her vision dotted with lights and stunning her for a moment.
Before she could regain her senses she found herself lifted into the air, tentacles wrapped around both legs. The thing dangled her upside down, her fingertips barely above the ground, and examined her with its dozens of eyes. The odd, fleshy maw opened once more and a trio of flattened, tongue-like tendrils extended towards her.
She struggled weakly as it lashed the tongues across her body, stripping the last remaining scraps of cloth from her legs and torso. The fumes and her uncomfortable position made her dizzy and light-headed. The sensation of the tongues scraping over her body was oddly...intoxicating. Her skin heated and tingled, as though doused in champagne, and the wrinkled, moist surface left her skin glistening with slime.
Her skin was pale from days spent inside, locked away in labs and libraries, and her exposed breasts swung freely, making it difficult to look upwards at what was happening. When exposed to the chill air of the lab the tingling around her chest, and especially her nipples, intensified into an intense pins-and-needles sensation.
One of the tongues lingered between her legs as it tore away the last shreds of her pants and underthings. The tingling there intensified as well and the creature pulled her legs apart, baring the patch of moistened brown hair and the glistening lips of her sex peeking through it. She tried to kick and thrash but the monster’s strength was irresistible. One of the tongues slid between her legs, coating her with more of the bizarre chemical and scraping its soft, bumpy surface against her slit.
“Ah! No!” Paracelsus could barely believe that the high-pitched gasp had come from her own mouth. She sounded like some blushing maiden being fondled for the first time. Admittedly, she was, technically, a maiden and no one had ever had the opportunity or inclination to dig beneath her heavy robes before. But to her virginity was neither a blessing nor a curse, it was an afterthought. She had no interest in the crude coupling of the illiterate masses or the perverse decadence of nobility.
But this creature’s touch was not the rough hand of a farmhand or the grope of a stinking drunkard. It was stirring strange, disquieting feelings in her and her head was spinning from the fumes of its pungent mucus. Waves of tingling heat washed over her body and her muscles felt rubbery and feeble.
With a wet sucking noise, the tongues retracted and the thing’s toothless mouth sealed seamlessly shut behind it. Thicker, knob-tipped tentacles emerged from the thing’s bulk. They stroked up and down her body, the heat of the creature’s body seeping through her skin and triggering a deep, aching tightness between her legs. The tentacles pulsed, ripples of thicker tissue rolling across its surface from base to tip. Two of them slid across and around her breasts, hefting and stroking them.
“Release me!” She batted weakly at the tentacles, to no obvious effect. “Have you a mind? Speak, if you have a tongue!”
There was no response from the abomination, it merely spread her legs further apart and lifted her slightly higher into the air. The tentacles began to prod and massage her breasts, seeking out her firm, hard nipples and prodding them with its wet, knobby tip. The ache between her legs intensified and she felt another tentacle probing and prodding at her sex. The tip found the soft bud of her clitoris and its firm, warm pressure forced another indecent whimper from her lips. A purely mechanical reaction, no different from the myotatic reflex of the knee when struck with a light tap.
Nothing more than an involuntary reaction. Her flush and panting were no doubt merely the result of her unnatural position and the strange vapors of the creature’s saliva. She was certainly not-
“Oh Light preserve!” Paracelsus cried out involuntarily as the tentacle slipped inside her. There was a momentary sensation of tightness and pressure as the appendage’s round head met her maidenhead before it was painlessly pierced. Rippling waves ran along the length of the tentacle, pushing it deeper inside her body with each wave. She felt long-neglected muscles tightening around the creature’s girth and her body shook and jerked, wracked by new, salacious sensations. She gasped and moaned, no longer able to deny her own reactions to this invasion. It felt unnatural. It felt shameful. It felt incredible.
Suddenly the monster’s arms released her, sending her sprawling to the floor. For a moment she could only stretch and arch her body as waves of perverse pleasure wracked her frame. As the hysterical paroxysm passed she was left panting and spent. Before she could climb to her feet the creature loomed over her once more.
Its mass was larger now, somehow bigger than the body that had spawned it. More eyes bubbled to the surface, focusing on her with bizarre double-lobed pupils. From the center of its body emerged a new organ: an enormous, engorged phallus. While much of the monster’s form seemed to be undifferentiated tissue, this was clearly of more human origin. Its flesh was taut and roped with veins and the skin was the dark, angry purple of a venous edema.
The monster’s intentions with this new appendage quickly became clear as it lashed more limbs around Paracelsus’ waist and chest. She was pinned to the floor as her round buttocks were raised into the air. More tentacles gripped her thighs and parted them to expose her womanhood, still wet and tingling. As the phallus drew closer she imagined herself lasciviously impaled upon the creature’s horrid shaft, wracked with unknown, perverse pleasures. It had already visited maddening joys and sensations upon her with merely a single tentacle...what would it be like to allow this new invasion? A mad, dark impulse gripped her, telling her not to fight and see what new vistas this being could show her.
But in the end, her mind and soul were that of a physician and natural philosopher and she could not ignore her study on parasitoid wasps or beetles. Reproduction is a natural impulse universal to all beings and she recalled this being’s terrifying genesis within the body of her former mentor. She could not allow shallow, animal lust to blind her to the danger she was facing.
Of course, her cooperation did not seem to be a factor. The creature pulled her closer, attempting to bring its enormous member to bear, rubbing its hard, slime-coated head between her legs, searching for purchase. She stifled a gasp at the throbbing heat stroking up and down against her slit. She attempted to pull free but the creature’s boneless, muscular limbs held her in an unbreakable grip.
Then her hand fell on something hard and cold: one of the silver syringes she had previously filled with her experimental formula. Desperate and lacking any better options she snatched up the syringe just as the creature flipped her onto her back, pulling her legs further apart and lifting her waist off the ground. She felt its phallus finally find the gap it sought, its huge tip pushing apart her wet lips. It was only inches inside her and she already felt stretched almost beyond belief.
With iron self-control, she pushed aside the aching, burning pleasure of the huge creature forcing its way inside her and tightened her grip on the syringe. With a sharp jab, she jammed the syringe into one of the ropy tendrils wrapped around her waist. As before, it did not react to the sharp point puncturing its skin but when she pressed the plunger home a noticeable shudder went through the abomination entire body. The flesh around the syringe began to writhe and boils and welts began to surface on its surface.
The thing let out a wet noise of distress and confusion and began to thrash and tremble. Paracelsus gasped as its member popped free and she was thrown across the room, nearly braining herself against the dissection slab. The monster wobbled and rolled back and forth as the chemical cocktail went to work. A spreading patch of yellow-purple spread over its limb and up to the main body and the creature began to decay rapidly, sloughing skin and tentacles onto the stone floor before collapsing to the floor.
It twitched once or twice and then lay still.
As Paracelsus climbed to her feet the corpse shriveled and crumpled into a small pile of bruised-looking flesh. As she watched, its remains began to dissolve into a puddle of steaming liquid.
She looked down at the syringe in her hand before setting it carefully on the dissection slab. Still naked and coated in the thing’s slime she stumbled across the room on trembling, numb legs. The podium holding her journal was miraculously still standing. When she reached it her legs almost collapsed as her body was wracked by another orgasmic seizure, an explosive surge of aching pleasure between her legs. She held herself upright against the podium until the waves of unnatural ecstasy passed.
Once she regained control, she picked up the quill pin and, hands still shaking, she opened the journal and began to write.
This autopsy has provided unexpected and disturbing results that bear much closer examination. In light of this new information, my approach to treatment may require adjustment. Previous formulas have all attempted to purge the body of illness and restore health to the patient. They were discarded as failures upon the death of the test subject. However, it is becoming clear that eliminating the contagion and curbing its spread may be more important than the well-being of the individual patient.
Viewed under this new set of priorities, it seems my cure is most effective.