Scunner's Last Run
Summary: Scunner is a teenage orphan in the city of Southport. Infiltrating an open gate, his curiosity leads to the horrid truth of elven reproduction.
Like the rest of Southport's human orphans, Scunner grew up wary of elves. They lived in the city's locked quarter, which possessed a separate port than the human docks and lighthouse. Nevertheless, the elves traveled the city and its environs, on whatever commercial or diplomatic endeavors their masters saw fit.
Human sovereigns and nobility emulated the pointy-eared, blonde, and beady-eyed folk. Scunner always found it hard to tell their epicene frames and fashions apart from each other. When one such figure, a knife-ear that followed him like a ghost, approached him, he initially tried fleeing. He almost did, after hearing the proposition.
Scunner was asked if he was alone. He vehemently denied it. The elf told him that he was aware of the network of street children he ran, a network of pickpockets, beggars, and urchins. Scunner asked if he wanted secrets or surveillance, like the others who offered him coin. The elf, though, chilled his skin. His misgivings were soon confirmed, when the elf asked him for human children.
Scunner tried lying, but the elf's hypnotic eyes caused his resistance to leave. The orphan began to find new children, those who'd newly arrived in the city, or those without guardians to care for them. Or simply those too curious about things they should not be. They were delivered each month to the side gate of the elven quarter, ushered wordlessly through soulless guards. He never saw them again.
Scunner never saw the elf that proposed the fell deal again, nor any of the children his ungainly urchins captured. He grew older than the rest, and the others trusted him. Puberty elongated his own limbs, giving him a gangly appearance that felt as unnatural as the elves' lithe forms. On a dare, he visited a brothel, similar to the sort he grew up in. He saw the women there were little older than him, coerced into chattel slavery. That ruined his urge to return.
Scunner saw an opening one day. Fewer elves than normal had left their quarter, far fewer than their ships would allow. The side gate where a decade's worth of children vanished was unguarded. The heavy wooden doors were propped opened, as if abandoned in a great hurry. His curiosity finally overcoming him, he clutched dagger in hand as he entered Southport.
Scunner pressed onward, keeping to dark places as he entered. On the other side of the wall was not an ornate, affluent part of town. Instead, the offal-filled streets stunk of fresh manure and rubbish. Hovel-like buildings crept upwards like precarious stacks of kindling. The ideal of elves as masters of fashion, cleanliness, and aesthetics was clearly untrue. He'd seen cleaner pigs.
Scunner approached the waterfront, when the stench of rotting meat and fecal matter assaulted his nostrils. It emerged from a single warehouse that dominated the waterfront like a filthy fortress. Navigating the eerily empty streets, he clutched his dagger tighter. He grasped his nose with his other hand, least he throw up on the streets.
Scunner moved with a nervous alacrity, wary of threats from any angle as he peered into the warehouse. What he saw made him throw up at once. Small bodies hung from meat-hooks, flayed and flensed of most of their skin. Inside the bodies' wounds was salt and broken glass, likely inserted when they were alive. He gasped as he recognized the children his gang had sent to the elven abattoir.
Scunner saw the real horror in the central chamber. It was a mound of quivering flesh, a dozen mouths slavering and gibbering nonsensically. Its corpulent bulk was enough to fill the chamber, with its blubber billowing in a nonexistent wind. His legs moved with a celerity befitting with a survival instinct, but curiosity made him hesitate. A second later, he realized he was not alone.
Scunner saw more elves than he ever did, simultaneously entering the central chamber. He ducked into the charnel house, hiding from the virtual parade behind the bodies of tortured children. They were naked, and he saw the truth of their bodies. The elves lacked defining genitalia or sexual characteristics, such as those humans would have. In between their legs was a fleshy, flaccid tube where several of the elves urinated from as they trudged towards the central chamber.
Scunner saw some of the elves remained behind the others, licking the urine and feces dropped by their fellows. Others grabbed the first row of flayed bodies, and brought them into the chamber. Tentacular growths emerged from the fleshy mound, connecting the fleshy tubes between their legs with the central mass. Bodies of children were thrown in, their remains messily sprayed across the walls. The sickly, elderly, and frail elves marched into waiting mauls, being messily devoured in a similar fate.
Scunner heard all the revolting sounds associated with it. He heard the gnashing of bone, the ripping of flesh, and the insane gibbering of the fleshy, rancid mound. Pustules formed on the thing's central body, to which he paid rapt attention. They ruptured in an odoriferous discharge, and the newborn elves stepped out. They were virtually identical to the other elves, save for a lack of scars and a thin coating of slime on their skin.
Scunner had enough by this point. He had no desire to be around when the elves departed. He turned to run from the eusocial abominations, but the floorboard beneath him creaked. The building went silent. Even the aberrant birthing ceased as the eyes of the fleshy mound turned to meet him. By the time the elves reacted, he already fled. That was how a human first saw the elven queen.