The moon peeked out from a veil of darkness as grey mists enveloped dense, lush rainforests. The howling of wolves echoed, reaching out to the unseen horizons. Bone-stinging chillness seeped into thick, humid air. In the midst of still trees, eerie silence followed the howls of the stealthy gray wolves. Deep in the moonlight-infused forests, the sound of crackling fire broke the grim silence. The swift movements of two unfathomable figures appeared near the fire that had turned into roaring flames. Far away in the sky, a faint sound swept along. The sound soon became louder and stronger. Loud enough for one to recognize the sound of flapping wings yet strong enough for any soul to wonder how immense the creature closing in was.
Moments later, the sound of flapping wings became more thunderous. Huge flapping creatures descended on the ground, folding their black wings into their backs. The ethereal creatures were human-like, only more sullen and pale. All clad in black, the pack was made up of males and females. All moved in silence, assembling around the blazing fire. There were two already waiting, a male and female creature, who seemed to be the leaders of the creatures. The creatures surrounded the flame, forming a circle. The mood was mystifying and melancholy. The creature in the lead bent his head, closing his eyes. The rest followed.
“We assemble here tonight, to mourn the loss of Dhruva, our valiant commander, the leader of the Bhishani clan. A pure pischacha, a true lamia, a warrior of no match and of four centuries experience,” said the leader. These were the words of eulogy he gave in a hushed tone for the dead one. In woeful sorrow, the entire pack howled, releasing an eerie cry that filled the stillness of night. The nocturnal creatures emitted a red aura which glowed from their bodies as their howling continued. Minutes later, the reddish glow vanished and their howlings died. The creatures were mourning. Mourning the death of a pack member.
The leader opened his eyes. He revealed blood-red pupils with golden irises. And it was no surprise that each one of the pack had similar eyes. The pack consisted of thirty eight members. Each one from the thirty six yakshini clans and two leaders, a male with a female, had gathered. The clans were direct descendants from thirty six yakshinis that once roamed on Earth. The clans made up the pischacha pack, feared, blood sucking creatures of ancient belief. Only found in literatures and mythologies of Hinduism, these creatures are just as formidable as their legends and fully real.
For centuries, the pischachas had spread out across the globe, living among humans, concealing their true nature. Leaving double lives as human-like in daylight and pischachas at night, they have thrived in the background while their existence was never known to humans. They have lived peacefully for long until the last two weeks. The pischachas were not the only creatures that had inhabited the darkness.
Weretigers are the enemies of the pischachas. Since the beginning of time, both species had been at war. The war that had lasted for eons had been dormant for the last two centuries as humanity thrived and a war could bring detrimental consequences to the existence of unearthly creatures like theirs.
A fortnight ago, Dhruva, had been on his rounds in the jungle of Aavri. Aavri is the heart of pischachas. It was home to the thirty six yakshinis and the pack had built its foundation in Aavri for eons. Dhruva, the war commander, had sensed intruder marks. Marks of creatures forbidden in his territory. The marks had led him to an encounter with the weretigers. He had warned them to leave, reminding them of the unimaginable consequences that would arise in case of defiance. The weretigers took their chances and had taken Dhruva down.
Dhruva was found by his fellow clan members. Ripped by his throat and mauled. The fangs of weretigers in a single bite can rip off crucial arteries and their saliva is fatal to pischachas. A drop is all that is needed to burn a hole on a pischacha’s skin. And the weretigers had left their note clear. The weretigers had not only lain dormant but had prepared themselves for another war.
Tonight, the head of the pischachas, Kraven, had ordered the leaders of each clan to assemble in Aavri. He resumed his eulogy in deafening rage, “Dhruva’s death will be avenged. The weretigers will answer our loss and we pischachas will claim souls of the wrenched felines with no mercy.’’ Kraven then moved forward to the flame. His pack followed suit. He clasped his hands and faced the sky. Chanting ancient mantras, he called upon their goddess of war, Kali to invoke her blessings.
Kraven’s consort Preta held out a gold chalice. Kraven, grazed his left wrist with his razor sharp fangs, drawing out blood. He held out his wrist on the chalice, allowing drops of blood to fall into it. The chalice was passed around the pack. Each one dropped blood into the chalice. Preta was the last while Kraven had continued chanting, calling upon Kali in a state of trance. Preta handed the chalice to Kraven as he finally stopped chanting.
An eerie silence passed. A slow breeze filled the air. Out of nowhere, the strong stench of rotten blood began to emanate. In the forest, the sounds of footsteps were evident. The moon was now nowhere to be seen. The sky was black and thunder bashed into ear-deafening roars. The wind had become turbulent. Amidst the chaos, a loud roar thundered.
It was then from the darkness, she emerged with her death-inviting form. Clad in a deer skin huntress outfit, with skulls hanging around her neck and ferocious glare, she is not a fit sight for the faint hearted. Her lion stood majestically by her. The entire pack kneeled before her. She had to be appeased and her blessings could give them the boon of winning this war.
Kraven offered Kali the blood filled chalice. Bowing to her in reverence, he pleaded “Goddess of War, Kali, we, pischachas are offering you our own blood. We beg for you to bless us in this path of war. War is imminent as the weretigers have taken a soul of us in our sacred Aavri. Bless us and walk with us as we seek justice.” He knelt, offering the chalice to Kali as she stood in her magnificent glory. She received and emptied the chalice, vanishing into thin air. Her acceptance had signified her blessings. Kraven turned and his wings emerged from his back spread wide. The pack followed him.
With rage-filled eyes and unswerving valor, the pack was ready. “And war shall it be, to the very last pischacha, the weretigers will answer Dhruva’s death,” thundered Kraven. He took off and ascended to sky. The pischachas disappeared into the misty fog, one after another, leaving no traces behind. The roaring fire had long died. The Aavri forest was the only witness to the meeting of ethereal pischachas that no human acknowledged while an unknown war is set to begin in the darkness of the night.
Read part 2 of this story here.