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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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My guide ran into the passage way and I followed. To my dismay, not a dozen paces inside my sight failed me as the red light of the lakes diminished. Ahead of me however, I could hear the woman running and I followed with my ears. Her feet pounded against the stone beneath us and as she took in air, I could hear even in her breathing the sound of dismay. As we ran she turned as the passage veered and more than once my shoulders struck the walls. I marveled that she could see in the pitch blackness and I wondered into how deep a darkness the people of Nocturnus could use their eyes.

Then I heard another gasp escape her and I thought it had a different tone, one perhaps more pleased. The pounding of her running slowed and I felt that I might run her over if I did not slow myself. I thought perhaps in that utter darkness as we slowed in our running that I might have come only inches from her but I could not truly tell. She then turned suddenly and I stumbled past her down the passage.

"Fool," I heard her growl.

I pounded to a stop and turned around though now I could not quite tell where her footsteps were coming from. I ran back to where I thought she had turned but the sound of her running had a completely different sound and though I vaguely recognized the difference in pattern, I felt a confusion strike me. Panic came over me.

I reached out my hands and stumbled about but then stopped. I would have to concentrate on the sound of her feet. It was my only hope. Forcibly calming myself I listened. Her footsteps echoed as they receded but the odd pattern still struck me as familiar. I moved again several steps and with a thrill realized I now heard the sound more clearly behind me. I turned and moved toward where I guessed the sound to be. Almost at once I tripped and fell forward. Instinctively my hands caught my fall but much sooner than I had expected because I did not hit the floor but rather a stone stairway. I needed no more to understand what had happened.

In a rush I leapt up the stairs and found at once that I traveled upward in a wide spiral. Thrilled that I could navigate this unchanging pattern with speed I pushed myself to the limit as I sprang upward taking two steps at a time. The climb, however, proved to be monumental. I began to sob for breath after a hundred steps, or perhaps a hundred and fifty. I did not know. I pushed myself onward taking now only one step and feeling my legs burn from the effort as they seemed to take on more and more weight. Something told me the woman ahead of me would not suffer from the same fatigue. At the thought of her I stopped and tried to listen but my breathing covered all other sounds I might have heard. Taking a deep breath I stopped and listened in the short time I could hold my lungs still. I caught only two foot falls. They were above me and distant. The woman had left me behind.

With my head spinning from lack of air, I pushed myself upward again, going with all the speed I could muster. The creatures we had seen undoubtedly threatened us or my guide would not have run as she did. Would they follow us however? I thought of my whistling echoing back to me across the great cavern and increased my efforts a bit more. My speed after a hundred more steps failed me however and I struggled to merely go onward, regardless of speed. It was not long after that I stumbled roughly into a stone wall. To my fortune I traveled slowly and so the jolt struck me more with confusion than with pain. My head swam and I sucked in air but still a sense of urgency pushed at me. I felt around in the darkness for an opening and began to feel fear once again as my hands could find nothing but walls. I felt around the top of the stairs again and again until, even in my dazed state, I understood that the stairs had simply ended.

I pressed my back against a stone wall to stabilize myself as I realized I was cornered. But where was the woman? Had I passed an outlet down below? Dismay overwhelmed me. The stairs had gone on and on. Only in the beginning had I listened to hear her climbing above me. I took several steps downward and felt a dread. I would be searching slowly in the darkness. Running away had failed.

I took another step as doubt welled up inside me. It was then I felt the slightest of breezes pushing against my face. A draft moved up this staircase past me. I turned around as realization struck me. Somewhere just a few steps behind me a passage of some sort led out of this place. I felt about in a rush once again. Once again I found nothing, not even a crack to explain the draft. Suddenly my scalp tingled and I looked upward. I reached my hands about above me but could feel no ceiling. Jumping upward, one of my hands struck stone and the other nothing. Was there escape above me?

I felt about the walls again, this time looking for something to climb upon. On the wall I had run into at the top of the stairs I found indentations. It was a crude ladder carved into the stone. I climbed at once. I found the indentations at regular intervals and began to move upward with more speed. Thirty feet up, perhaps, my hand found a ledge. I pulled myself up with relief and crawled over the top onto my hands and knees. I quieted my breathing again and listened. I thought I heard something, the running of feet, but it was so distant and in the next moment I could no longer hear it.

I felt about on my hands and knees until the shape of my surroundings became clear. Another passage led away in front of me. I stepped forward feeling with my hands and felt my chest become tight with concern. I could not run in this absolute darkness. I settled for jogging slowly with my hands out in front of me. I believed, however, that if pursuers followed me, they would not move so slowly. The passage had few turns however and I struck the walls infrequently. Daring to believe it went on in the same manner; I increased my speed and hoped for the best. The passage sloped upward which inspired me for if it led upward sooner or later I would arrive at the surface. I ran for some time, not quite an hour, when ahead of me I heard the sound of water. Somewhere ahead some kind of river ran through the caves.

I continued forward and as I did the sound of the running water became louder. It was not the sound of rapids but merely the sound of volumes of water on the move. It became so present in the passage I traveled that I slowed to a walk. The sound echoed past me as I moved until finally I knew I had come quite close to it. Then as I stepped forward, a slight mist struck my face and I stopped. If my perception of sound did not deceive me, the water ran directly across my path.

Not knowing what else to do, I moved forward feeling with my bare feet for where the water would begin. I had gone a short distance when I realized the water did not run across the path but rather far below it. The perception of depth made me swoon for an instant but then I continued forward, feeling with my feet. As the wetness in the air became heavy, my toes went over the edge of a smooth stone. I had come to a precipice in the darkness.

I dropped to my hands and knees and felt about. The ledge bore the same smooth worn stone of many passing in its center and as I felt away to the sides it became rough until it met the wall on either side. The passage spanned only some six feet. Ahead of me a long drop went to rushing water below but the passage had simply ended.

On my hands and knees I considered what lay behind me. Had I passed some passage that led around this? The woman with the horn on her forehead was not here. I shut my eyes in frustration and despair. Time slipped by me and I considered what might become of me. Would the creatures in the cavern find me here? Or would I wander these passage ways until I starved and lay down in the darkness to die. What happened then I do not know, but the idea came to me that not far across from me the passageway continued. Cocking my head at the thought, I felt around for a stone. I found rubble against the walls, small stones, but they would do. Taking a handful, I threw them forward with force. I could hear them striking stone rather quickly and to my delight many of them bounced onward upon some stone surface. A moment later I heard others plop into the water below. A drop of perhaps forty feet? But how far was the distance to the other ledge? Did the ceiling afford for such a leap? Did I dare to jump at all? I was kneeling and I stood to consider it. Taking in a breath I made my choice. I would try.
I reached for another handful of stones but stopped cold. Had I heard a sound or had some sixth sense alerted me. I simply knew something approached from behind me. Though it was not the terrible thing which had killed Lucon, I knew it menaced me. I took in a breath of fear and took several steps back. I ran forward but my nerve failed and I stopped just before the drop. I had not been able to force myself to jump. I then considered the thing behind me. Whatever came, came quickly. Then over the sound of the water, I heard a rubbing upon stone. All doubt left me because I had heard this sound once before. A snake rushed toward me down the passage.

I turned back toward the precipice and set my toes upon the edge. There was not time to go back and make a running start. I simply had to jump. A hiss issued from the darkness at my back and I bundled my legs under me and let my body lean far forward over the drop. The sound of rushing water came to me loudly and my head felt light as I fell forward. Then, when my weight leaned far beyond the point of return, I sprang forward with all my might.

I stretched out as I dove and reached my hands forward. The time my body passed through the air took on an unreal quality and my head spun at the horror of falling. My world reeled with nothing to stabilize it for everything in that moment had become an unknown. Then my chest and hands came down upon stone. I grunted as the wind was knocked out of me and my face stung. The combination startled me but I gasped in horror as the weight of my legs came down and I slid swiftly backwards upon the smooth stone. My armpits came to the edge of the drop as my legs hit the stone wall. The force of the impact pulled my arms back and I pressed my hands against the worn stone as they slid back. One arm lost the battle and I clawed at the cliff face for a grip. My fingers found a small crag in the rock as the other arm slipped to the elbow and then stopped. My body dangled below and I did not dare to move my feet around to find a grip for fear of worsening my hold with my hands or falling altogether. I froze, hoping to steady myself. If I could secure my grip, I could then find footholds to push off of. It was then, however, that I heard the hiss of the snake and arms reach behind my head.

The snake had reached its head out across the drop. How far it could reach I did not know. I had seen the snakes in my world reach quite far. Could this monstrous thing do the same? The fingers that held the crag of rock trembled with stress of weight and I could sense the snakes head moving back and forth. If it came forward even a little more, it would reach me. I held my breath, hoping to somehow hide my location. The arm I had upon the ledge slipped slightly however and I gasped in fear. Then I felt a thing more horrible than anything I had ever felt in my life. The tongue of the snake ran itself across my cheek.

My head reeled with terror, for the thing had reached me. With its tongue it had found me and the next thing to come would be the bite of its jaws. I pulled with the arm I had on the ledge with all my might but instead of gaining ground I lost another inch as my hand slid back. I had one chance to live and only an instant to act upon it. And so I acted. I let go of the ledge and fell into the darkness.



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