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Mythos Nocturnal

A serial by Brad Beard Select Episode: Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7
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Episode 5

The feeling of terror still pushed through my body like a kind of foul wind which I could perceive with every cell it touched. And yet, if I chose to live I had to move towards it. With my teeth clenched I passed back inside of the cave. Each step forward came as a struggle to me. Whatever had killed the man I had just met emanated its presence still, and strongly. I tried to rush forward but had little luck and to my senses came the terrible sensation that this thing might know that I was near. Finally I found what I had missed. My left hand met with air instead of rock and there I felt a breeze passing by my hand. A small sound escaped me as I realized I could now flee. Turning into the new passageway, I stumbled forward as swiftly as I could in the total darkness.

This new passageway through the earth had a different smell and shortly after I entered it, I could feel that I had begun to go down a gradual slope. While I could still sense the menace behind me, I realized with relief that it had begun to fade. I thought of rest then because the intensity of my fear had drained me. At the thought, a chill struck me once again and I moved on with more haste instead. A long time I traveled without stopping and all sense of time left me. Had I traveled a horribly long hour, or rather did my weariness speak of many hours. I did not know. My journey had no milestones to mark it. Then came the haunting sound.

It traveled through the walls of the cave in which I traveled and it vibrated with a deep rumbling. With my hands upon the walls to guide me, I could feel it passing by as the rock trembled. To me it sounded as though a giant voice sang a single deep note. It was, however, some note which passed through the stone itself. What could have produced such a sound I did not know but at once it repeated itself. I froze where I was, both listening and feeling this new thing. Had I experienced it a day before it would have filled me with fear but after the experience I had just had, I could not again be so afraid. It did make me nervous however. Very nervous. What could possibly create such a sound. It came again and then again and I realized then that I listened and felt a drumming coming through the rock itself, as if something used this very cave as a drum.

I guess the drumming to be issuing from deep below me or perhaps far behind me and so, in what I saw as wisdom, I once again hurried upon my way. Not long after I stumbled slightly as I felt no more rock for my hands to guide me past. Then my eyes found an ever so faint glint of red above me. I had made my way into the cavern. Though I could sense here and there an object with my eyes, for the most part I traveled in absolute darkness. It seemed I walked between two tall walls of stone though I could no longer touch both with my outstretch hands. Then, finally, I passed by a spire of rock and came into view of the three red lakes. Their glowing red surfaces seemed more welcome than many things I had once thought dear. I did not know their size and so could not judge my distance from them but now I had something I could see and I could travel using my eyesight. I felt a wave of relief sweep over me at the thought. Behind me, the drumming still vibrated out from the stone and into the air of the cavern.

I looked down to the path at my feet and it seemed worn by many passings. In fact, I could see that its stone surface had worn smooth and under my bare feet it felt polished. A ever so slight glint showed me the path ahead and with my hopes rising I ran forward. My feet slapped against stone as I went and I could now tell as I move that the lakes awaited me perhaps a mile ahead down a long gentle slope. I ran the distance with my hopes high, though I can not say why, because these glowing red lakes glowed their light in a most alien way. When I neared I slowed myself to a walk. The lakes I now guessed, each spread out perhaps an acre, small lakes indeed. And then, as I came even closer, I saw a shape kneeling by the lake.

The form seemed at once familiar, human in shape and with features that could be none other than a woman. The red lake silhouetted her and it seemed she clasped her hands at her chest. Long hair fell down her back making her outline all the more feminine. I moved toward her slowly, wondering what this new development would bring. I came within thirty feet of her when she looked up at the cliffs from where the drumming still emanated. It was then I saw that from her forehead protruded a single short horn.

I stopped where I was heard a gasp escape me. At the sound she whirled my way and from her belt she drew a war hammer. The tool had a long shaft and at its end a small but deadly hammer head sprouting a wicked claw off its back end. She stood now and I could see that she stood nearly my own height. Her back now to the water, I could see nothing of her face.

"I mean you no harm," I said quickly.

The hammer twirled in her grip and she said, "Come no closer."

Her voice harbored threat and from the look of her war hammer, I assumed she could harm me easily if she chose.

"I came for the lakes only," I said. "I will pass you by if you wish. I want no fight."

For once what I said seemed satisfactory and I saw her shoulders drop as she relaxed.

"Drink then," she said. "I will not harm you while you do."

Drink? The thought had not occurred to me. I had only wanted the light of the red lakes for safety but at her mention of it, I realized I did indeed have quite a thirst. I thought to ask if this water was safe to drink but knew I would give myself away as foreign to this dark land. Further, she seemed to already assume I had come to drink, and from her response, found it natural. She moved to the side and I came forward, using this small moment of peace to my advantage. If drinking kept her at bay, then I would drink.

I fell to my knees just in front of the water an realized these lakes sat upon stone. Where I knelt felt smooth also and I wondered how many others had come here before me. What were these lakes? I leaned forward and let my face come close to the glowing red surface. The water moved slightly at my breath and I could then see down through it perhaps a foot. No signs of fish or any other small life appeared within it and leaned even closer with my nose almost touching the water. I caught my reflection and I wondered if any other human had ever looked into these waters. Then I drank.

The cool waters ran down into my belly and the sensation pleased me at once. I leaned again and sucked in the water, drinking many gulps without coming up again. At last I had my fill and I backed away and stood. The woman still stood there and now with her face half lit by the light of the lake beside us, I could see the reflection of light from tears upon her face.

"From where have you come?" she asked me.

I thought of what I could say in response and stated the most simple answer, "From above in the caverns, by way of the swamp."

"Do you know why the Sawolancien beat the earth?" she asked.

"I don't know for certain," I said, wondering what creature she named. "But something terrible killed someone up there. Something with an aura of evil."

"Shadow," she whispered. Then with more force she asked, "Who did it kill? Do you know?"

"Someone named Lucon," I said. "He invited me— "

I got no further for she dropped her face into her free hand and let out a sound of grief.

"Oh, Lucon," she said. "Why did you wait? The Queen hadn't found you yet."

I took a step forward, sensing her loss, but I could do nothing. I did not know this being in any way. I did not know of what she was capable or if she bore some wild streak I could not trust.

"Were you near?" she asked me then, raising her face. "Did you see what happened?"

"I dined with him," I said. "Then the thing came he told me I would die if I stayed."

She dropped her hands to the side with despair and said, "Then he did not run, he waited."

"He said something like that," I said. "He seemed to know it was coming."

She looked at me oddly then and I realized I had made some mistake. Something I did not know about this place had showed itself in my speech.

"Who can not feel his shadow?" she said with resentment.

"I am sorry," I said. "I meant no disrespect."

She then sighed and said almost to herself, though I felt she also spoke to me, "What will we do without you, Lucon? You gave us strength."

She then put her hammer back into her belt which relieved me.

"You met him then," she said, "in his final hour. Did he speak?"

"Yes," I said. "He told me how I might find my way here to this lake. And how I might survive better."

I added the last, thinking it might honor this Lucon in some way but she frowned slightly at it.

"Wisdom is for the damned," she said in such a way that I felt she might have said it many times.

Then I realized that here before stood a friend of Lucon, the only creature who had at least partially befriended me in this place called Nocturnus.

I asked her, "How do I find my way out of this place?"

I hoped madly she would tell me how to leave this pitch black world but instead she said, "There are many ways in and out of this cavern. Where do you want to go?"

Using what Lucon had told me, I said, "I want to go to the edge of the Bleak Farthing."

Perhaps there awaited my way home.

"Then we will head that way," she said. "I am also headed in that direction. What will you give me in exchange for guiding you?"

I looked to her dimly lit face with its horn coming from the forehead and then down at my body. I wore only my pajamas. I had nothing to offer.


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Revised November 19, 2002
by David Kraybill
©2002 Beard-Kraybill Studios