View Full Version : What Lies Beneath (Fantasy)

The Pale Lady
12-01-2006, 17:03
The sun crept wearily over the horizon, her weak rays barely illuminating the bare rock below. In this early morning light strode four figures. Three were clearly human, their dress indicating men of the Empire. The fourth was shorter, much shorter and fatter. An intricately braided beard also hung down his front, marking him out as a dwarf.
“Hurry!” shouted Klaus eagerly as they neared the edge of Blackwater. He’d been encouraging the group on ever since they left the village and at the sight of their destination he gave a cry of relief. Racing off toward the lake, his leather jerkin fluttering, the others reluctantly picked up their pace.
“See I told you! I told you we’d find it!” Klaus yelled triumphantly, his one eye darting around avidly. “I knew we were close!” Subconsciously he scratched his eye patch with a grubby finger. It was an automatic action he’d picked up somewhere many years ago. He didn’t even realise he was doing it, half the time.
“Yes, isn’t it just fantastic” muttered the second human sarcastically. He was taller than Klaus, but walked with a slight stoop that hid his height advantage. Wrinkles decorated his long face liberally and grey stubble floundered on his chin. “You can virtually see the gold and jewels from here”. He spoke slowly, deliberately and cast Klaus a withering glare.
“Come now Frederick, there’s no need for that tone of voice. You wanted to find this place as much as the rest of us. Otherwise you wouldn’t have agreed to accompany us, would you?” Muttering under his breath, the wizened wizard turned and studied the lake. It was still and looked cool. Yet there was an uneasiness about the place, a…stillness. It made him uncomfortable.
“Now that I am here, I am not so sure I want to be”.
“Has your shoddy memory failed you already, manling, or do you remember the tales of wealth and gold that sit, unclaimed, on an island at the heart of the lake? ‘Tis said by my folk, the dwarfs of Zhufbar, that your race built a monastery or some similar building there, long ago, but my ancestors lost contact with them many, many years gone. If it weren’t for this damned mist, we’d probably be able to see it already”. The gruff voice of the dwarf rang out, unnecessarily loud, and carried far across the eerie lake. Klaus and Frederick seemed lost for a moment as their minds were filed with visions of untold riches.
“Then I presume, ‘dwarf’, that your kin have also heard of the rumours that surround this place? The villages we passed through certainly knew a few. Did you know this place is said to be haunted?” The conspiratory voice of Pieter, the third human, interrupted the conversation. “They say that monsters, demons and other dark, dangerous creatures inhabit these lands. They whisper of ghosts and the walking dead and of beasts that live in the ruins of the monastery-” Norin, the dwarf, interrupted.
“Aha! So my clan was right, there is a monastery here! If they’re right about that, they’re certainly right about the gold. It stands to reason!” At the mention of gold once more, the other two brightened up, their momentary nightmares diminishing slightly. Pieter merely huddled up and cast his gaze around suspiciously. The fear was evident in his eyes.
Klaus stepped up to the shaking Pieter and wrapped an arm comfortingly around his shoulder.
“Look here Pieter, there’s no need for this nonsense and worrying. All stress does is send a man to an early grave and we don’t want that now, do we? No, I thought not”. Turning to the wizard, Klaus gave a subtle wink. “Besides,” he continued conversationally, “all the lake monsters that lived here were fought and killed by our good Empire over a decade ago-” Once more, Nain broke briskly into the conversation, his deep voice drowning out the others.
“Not without the help of my kind they didn’t. T’were it not for the aid of the dwarfs of the mountains you wouldn’t have triumphed that day”.
“Yes, thank you for that interjection Nain,” snapped Klaus. “As I was saying, there’s nothing to fear here anymore”. Giving the stunned Pieter a slap on the back for encouragement, Klaus strode off.
“Right then, I suppose we’d better get started” began Frederick with a sigh. “I’ll need some peace and quiet if my spell is to succeed. Concentration is of the utmost importance, so stand back and for Sigmar’s sake be quiet”. As the other members retreated from around the wizard, he opened his worn satchel and removed several items. Kneeling, he began the long and tedious process of drawing out a pentagram.

By midday, the sun was exhausted. Light dribbled pathetically from her divine body as she hung in the sky. At the lakeside, an imperial, commanding voice could be heard. Magical syllables flowed from the wizard’s mouth thickly as he chanted an incantation. The others watched curiously. Pieter shook with fright. Then with an almighty shout, the last word was uttered and there was an immense flickering of lightning within the roughly drawn pentagram. Cloying smoke billowed forth and Pieter shrieked with shock. Nain scowled, his brows beetling together, obviously unimpressed by the seemingly needless use of magic.
“There!” said Frederick proudly. At the centre of the pentagram there was a boat. It was a small thing, made of wood with two oars littered in its body. Moss grew heavily on the outside of the ‘boat’ and a puddle of water sat in its belly. Pieter raised an eyebrow.
“It’s not exactly…” he attempted feebly but was interrupted roughly by Nain.
“What in the name of Grungni is that? You don’t expect me to sit in that, let alone the four of us! Do you want to see the bottom of the lake! Why, I could’ve carried a better boat here myself!” The dwarf spoke incredulously.
“And yet we didn’t hear you offering at the time, did we?” spoke Klaus pointedly. “Besides, we’re only going the short distance to the middle of the lake. It’s not like were sailing the Great Ocean or anything. Thank you, Frederick, it looks fine. Your efforts are much appreciated”. Throwing the dwarf a malicious look, the wizard replied angrily.
“I don’t know why I bother really, its not as though anyone appreciates my hard work, I mean, really appreciates it. What I’m even doing here I don’t know, stuck in the middle of nowhere with an idiot, a coward and a dwarf”. The wizard coughed, spitting a globule of yellowish phlegm to the ground. “A dwarf of all people! Renowned for their distrust of magic…I must have been on weirdroot or worse when I agreed to come along with you…you…” He struggled for a fierce enough word to express his anger. “You plebeians!” Sighing overdramatically, Frederick crossed his arms. Nain looked about he was about to explode.
“And you wonder why my kind doesn’t trust to wild magic? Look in front of you! What do you call that? It isn’t a boat by my books, I tell you now. For a start, boats need to be able to float!” The wizard and the dwarf glowered at each other venomously. Klaus, fearful of physical developments, strode between the two.
“Well, what are we waiting for? I for one would prefer not to be out and about at nightfall, so we’d best get a move on. This is not the time for silly arguments. Come along now; let’s get this vessel water worthy”. Pieter shivered.

The Pale Lady
12-01-2006, 17:04
The boat drifted precariously across the calm surface of the lake. Fog enveloped it on all sides, enshrouding the little boat in its cold, dank embrace. At the oars, Klaus and Nain rowed rhythmically. Their breath came in steady gasps and sweat clung to their brows.
Pieter glanced nervously over the side of the boat. The dank, glassy surface of the lake was all but impenetrable to his sight, but he could have sworn he’d seen something a minute ago. Something near them, under them.
“They killed them all, right?” Pieter spoke quietly. Nain chuckled mischievously before replying.
“Aye, or so it is told. They say the deadly might of the monsters was so great, that even as outnumbered and overwhelmed as they were, the tide of battle was swaying their way. It looked mighty grim indeed for our kin. Then the clouds parted, and revealed the true horror of the monsters to the world. They say their flesh was green and slimy and each sported claws like daggers. Their strength was such that they could tear a man in half with their bare hands”. Pieter was as white as a sheet, his eyes wide with terror at the images generated in his mind by the dwarf’s words. His voice quavered as he replied.
“So, h-how were they d-defeated?” Nain’s eyes glinted.
“It was the sun who burned them to a crisp, for they could not abide the touch of sunlight. It decimated their army in minutes. Killed most of them off, nothing but their bones left”. There was silence for several moments before Pieter spoke.
“Aye, most. Rumours still abound of creatures haunting Blackwater, stealing victims away to be killed beneath the calm surface of the lake.”
“Aye, but pay no attention to those. They’re just foolish little stories made up by those with too much time on their hands and nothing to do”. By the time he had finished talking, Nain was grinning from ear to ear, something which the petrified Pieter failed to notice.
“Can you see anything yet?” muttered the dwarf between oar strokes. Frederick peered into the dense mist. It was like trying to look through a wall.
“Erm, not as such…it’s still a bit too foggy” replied the wizard. Pieter piped up, near hysterically.
“Still ‘a bit too foggy?’ ‘A bit too foggy!’ That’s the understatement of the century! Excuse me if I’m mistaken, but we’ve been rowing now for too long and this cursed fog isn’t going anywhere. Its unnatural I tell you, unnatural! Dark sorceries are responsible I’m sure of it! And I’m sure there’s something following us in the water!” His voice reached new highs as Pieter’s panic got the better of him and he began to move restlessly.
“Stop it, you stupid fool! You’re rocking the boat!” commanded Frederick. Anger flooded from him, heightened by previous tensions.
“We’re lost! Lost! Trapped here forever until we sink and drown or fall prey to some horrible monster! Let me off! Let me off this boat!” Pieter staggered to his feet uncertainly, arms spread out for balance. The boat rocked treacherously to the left. Suddenly, a heavy oaken staff thwacked into the back of Pieter’s head and he toppled, pole axed.
“I apologise, but it had to be done. He was delusional with fear. I mean, where did he expect to go? We’re in the middle of a lake for Sigmar’s sake.” The calm voice of Frederick spoke aloud. Suddenly Klaus shouted out.
“Frederick you fool, he’s going to fall in! Catch him before it’s too late!” The wizard’s brows shot up in surprise as he realised what was about to happen. Lunging forward he grasped frantically for the unconscious form of Pieter. The boat dipped under the haphazard movement and suddenly chilling water rushed in. Within moments and amid the panicked cries of Klaus and Frederick, the weak boat sank.

Several metres beneath the boat, two dark shapes effortlessly kept pace. As quiet and subtle as shadows they glided through their dark, silent, lifeless watery realm, knowing they would soon feed. It had been so long since they had drunk of human blood. For too long now fish had been their source of nourishment. Now at last, their dark hungers would be sated.
Klaus floundered in the freezing embrace of the water. It was all around him, chilling him to the core. Spluttering, he glanced around. The fog was everywhere, concealing everything.
“Hello?” he shouted; his voice largely muffled by the dense mist. “Frederick? Where are you?” After several moments of waiting, he heard a vague shout. It sounded like Nain…it certainly wasn’t the wizard. “Is that you, Nain?” Klaus shouted in desperation. The cold was beginning to get to him, making him numb. His legs ached from treading water. Then his feet brushed something. His eyes widening in shock, his heart began to beat faster. The terror of the unknown grasped his throbbing heart as he struggled in vain to see what swam beneath. Suddenly a clammy, webbed, clawed hand snatched his leg in its iron grip and with a last gulp of air, Klaus was dragged flailing beneath the surface.

“Klaus? Frederick? I'm over here!” roared Nain in indignation. He knew that shoddy boat was unworthy to be ridden in. That incompetent wizard should never have summoned it. By Grimnir, the least he could have done was summon a decent boat! He knew he’d never trust magic again. The cursed mist was all around him and he could no longer hear the other voice. His dwarfen eyesight picked out swift movement in the water beneath him and his wet beard bristled. This was all he needed, some damned lake-monster coming and taking a bite out of him! Tearing his runic axe from his soggy belt, the waterlogged dwarf took a deep breath and descended beneath the surface. If he was going to get eaten, he was going to go down with a fight.
Beneath the surface it was a different world. The silence matched that of the surface, yet it was darker, so much darker. Thanking his ancestors for acute dwarfish eyesight, Nain searched for his enemy. From out of the depths, to his front, a large shape emerged. It glided eloquently through the water, body moving like that of a shark, perfectly at home in the cold wet of the stagnant lake. It looked humanoid, yet it was like no creature he’d ever seen. Opening its jaws slowly, menacingly, the monster revealed rows of short, spiky teeth. Slowly the creature swam through the water, circling Nain. Its red, predatory eyes shone with an unholy light. Taking a practice swing with his ancient rune axe, Nain readied himself for the fight. The axe had been an heirloom, passed down through generations of his ancestors. The edge glittered, despite the absence of light. It would draw blood before the fight was out, swore Nain to himself. He would make sure of that. Kicking his short legs, the dwarf prepared to engage the monster.
“For Grimnir!” he gurgled through a flurry of bubbles.
Suddenly a massive force smashed into him from underneath. The blow knocked his remaining breath from him and sent the short dwarf tumbling through the icy coldness of the lake. His axe fell from his near numb grasp, sinking slowly down into the depths until even its glittering light was swallowed by darkness. Nain’s lungs drew breath instinctively and water rushed into him. Then, after a couple of moments, he too was still. His body sank after his axe. As he fell the two vampires silently followed him, their dark hunger incited.

The Pale Lady
12-01-2006, 17:05
Frederick sat huddled on the rock, shivering to himself. His teeth chattered repeatedly. He was freezing. Glancing briefly behind him, he checked Pieter. The man was still unconscious and he was deathly pale. Seemingly unconcerned, the wizard shrugged. It was that fools fault he was in this mess. He didn’t even know why he’d saved the man…he supposed it was the humane thing to do. He might hate him, but he was not a monster. It was lucky he’d found this rock, otherwise he’d have been forced to abandon the stupid fool. He wondered where the others were. He doubted this was the only rock in the lake. Perhaps they’d found one to take refuge on?
Overhead, the sun died. Her weak rays faltered and a shadow seemed to descend on them. Frederick shivered again, but not from the cold. His earlier feelings of uneasiness returned, redoubled. From across the water he heard a terrible cackling howl that seemed to bring the darkness alive with unseen horrors. The lake splashed against the rock he was sat on and he jumped despite himself. Chanting under his breath, the wizard wrapped his cloak around him tightly and closed him eyes. He was so tired…
From out of the water slid Uriel. The ancient vampire rose powerfully, the dank contents of the lake running down his scaly flesh. The sleek monster advanced on the sleeping form of the human silently. His crimson eyes flashed red with hunger. The mortal would pay with its life for intruding on the domain of his clan. With the preternatural stealth that only a vampire has, the monster advanced on his prey.
Frederick cast back his cloak majestically and his eyes were alight with white flames. At the utterance of a word, pale fire sprang from his fingertips. The flames spiralled toward the vampire, who darted nimbly aside. Quickly the wizard brought his hand around, sweeping the arcane flames before him protectively. Unable to cross the wall of fire before the human, the vampire hissed venomously. Howling terribly to the night sky, the unholy cackle echoing across the lake, Uriel stepped back and leapt into the lake, disappearing from view. He would not risk harm if he could help it.
Back in the safe embrace of the lake, Uriel drifted slowly, purposefully around the rocky island the humans rested on. So it was a magic user. A wizard. The vampire’s lips curled back over his gums, revealing row after row of needle-like teeth. They were tricky, he knew from experience. They whispered their secret words and called down curses on his kind. Yes, he thought, curses and scratches and burns. They smote his brothers and made their bodies to ash. Uriel’s eyes glittered with hatred as he flicked eloquently around, reversing his orbit of the rock. Here he was safe. Here he was immortal. The lake was his realm. His. His masters. But his master couldn’t guard it, no he couldn’t. As thoughts and memories of the vampire’s maker swam through his mind, Uriel twitched uncomfortably. It hurt him still to remember his master after what had happened. He thought it would always hurt. Maybe he had been scared of the great vampire, a little, but he was loyal. He would steer the Order in his absence, until his return. He would keep it safe, patrol its boundaries, tend the shrines and haunt the halls. He would guide his brothers through the ages, keep them together. He was the oldest left. It was his duty. He would do these things. He would! Mouth gaping in irritation and agitation, the vampire calmed himself. The men would be getting hungry for food. Thirsty. They would need to keep their strength up. Perhaps, he thought idly, they would eat each other. Perhaps they would not. They would be getting hungry. Thirsty. He certainly was. But the wizard, the magic…he could wait. He always waited. He was good at that. His father would be proud. The vampire swam on as his mind swept and looped and drifted between thoughts. His unblinking eyes stared on.
Frederick bent double and gasped. The bale fires in his eyes flickered and died and the wizard’s wiry form was wracked with a coughing spasm.
“Pieter…” A wracking cough tore from his throat. “Pieter are you awake yet?” He spat but there was no reply. He was still out cold. Another cackling howl resounded throughout the air, taunting him. Then it dawned on Frederick how hopeless his situation was. He was alone with Pieter, with no food or warmth. He was surrounded on all sides by cold, still water. Even without the deadly attentions of the lake monsters, he was doomed. He was trapped here.