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Into Darkness

Into Darkness

A Chapter by Natasha Reams

      For a few brief moments I was free falling. Air rushed past my face and whipped at my clothes. Then I suddenly hit the wall of the hole and started to slide. At the end I tumbled out of the hole and into what I could only assume was a tunnel. With no lightsource I scrambled to find a wall and catch my bearings. What I found was indeed a wall, but it seemed to be made of many vines or roots tangled together. I bent back down and felt the floor curiously: it too had vines, though there was plenty of dirt packed between them all.

      Very carefully I kept a hand on the wall as I made my way forward. The tunnel seemed to go on for ages. I already couldn't remember what the sun felt like. Maybe I would die down here and never see it again. This tunnel could easily turn into a labyrinth, and then where would I be?

      Eventually I noticed that the tunnel was steadily gaining more light. After going around a sharp corner a soft glow seemed to be coming from a few feet up ahead. When I reached the source of it my jaw dropped in awe. A circular room was lit by dozens of clusters of glowing mushrooms. The mushrooms gave off a gentle, bluish light that seemed to pulse with life. They grew all around the edges of the room as well as up the walls and on the ceiling. There were so many that it was quite easy to see in here now. I smiled as I saw they continued to glow along the tunnel leading further in. At least I wouldn't stumble quite as much.

      As I was about to cross the circular room I heard several pairs of footsteps coming up the tunnel leading further in. In a panic I dove behind a large stone near the tunnel I had come from. The footsteps drew closer and I readied my bow silently. When I heard voices accompany the footsteps I peeked around the stone. Two odd creatures had stopped in the middle of the room and were looking around rather carelessly. They didn't appear to be human; in fact they resembled pigs more than anything. Their noses looked like rounded snouts and they had beady little eyes that were half-covered by their sagging eyebrows. Clothed in tattered cloth and a few leather bits here and there that must have served as armor, the creatures moved clumsily and slouched. In their grubby hands, however, I saw two large wooden clubs.

      "A'right, we here," One of the creatures spoke in a strange grunting voice. "Where da intruda?"

      "Dunno," The other spoke, its voice more like a squeak than a grunt. "Mistress said som'one was here. Don't see no one though."

      "Maybe we beat 'em here. We ought ta wait a bit," The first spoke and then yawned loudly. "'Sides, I'm beat!"

      The second looked back the way they had come nervously. "What if Mistress comes? S-she'll cook us fer sure!"

      "Naw! She too worried bout that water ta cook us. Time fer a nap!"

      They settled on either side of the lit tunnel and within minutes were snoring. I poked my head out a bit further to get a better look at them. From this distance I could easily aim an arrow somewhere vital. Unfortunately there were two, so the death of one could alarm the other. As I contemplated this, I realized what I was thinking of doing. I had no idea who or what these creatures were! What if they were trying to protect the Oak? Maybe they could help me cure it. Surely there was a way for me to capture and question them?

      I looked around the room, my gaze pausing on the wall of the tunnel I’d come in from. Several of the vines looked loose along the walls. If I could gather enough of them to make into a rope, I could tie the creatures to something... The stone! It would definitely keep them from going anywhere. Knocking them out first would probably be best, though the only thing that might do would be their own clubs. Creeping out from my hiding place carefully, I tugged on the loose vines and was relieved when they came free easily. Four made a long enough rope to wrap around the stone with enough extra room to try binding their hands.

      As quietly as possible I approached one of the creatures. It smelled awful and its snores assaulted my ears as they echoed through the room. Gently I grabbed one end of the club and lifted it away from the creature's hand. The weapon was heavy but luckily I could lift it over my head. With one swing the club hit the creature's head with a dull thud. Instantly its snores ceased and it slumped to the side. I lugged the club over to the second creature and did the same. That bit had been easier than I had thought, but then dragging the two of them over to the stone and positioning them proved to be difficult. It must have taken an hour to finally get them tied up.    

      Laying down on the hard ground I let out a long sigh. It'd be a while before they would wake up. Perhaps I should go on ahead? If they're enemies then they're taken care of, and if I find out they were friends I could always come back and release them. Nevertheless I was exhausted after that ordeal and wished I had just stayed home tonight. Then I could have gotten up for work like normal and spent precious time with Liza throughout the morning. It would be a normal day in Dower... Like every other day.

      I sighed again and stared up at the ceiling. Could I have gone back to a normal life so willingly when I had longed for excitement for so long? The Grand Oak was offering me a chance to get out of the forest and see what sounded like most of Astoria. Was that so bad? How difficult could it be to save a few gods and defeat an impending darkness? I laughed at myself and slowly sat up. There was no going back if I continued on now. Either I'll be stuck in this adventure or stuck in normal village life. Which was worse?

      Dusting off my clothes, I stood and readied my bow. Settling into my familiar hunter's stride I made my way into the lit tunnel and further into this strange place. This tunnel was much shorter than the first and eventually ended at an intersection. I stared down each of the three new paths and found only one that seemed to have light at the end of it. That light turned out to be a single standing torch at a dead end. Confused as to why this could possibly be here, I surveyed the tunnel. A few bits of wood lay near the base of the torch, one of which looked like it had been on fire at some point. I held the wood up to the torch's flame and it lit easily. With nothing left of interest here, I returned to the intersection.

      The center tunnel brought me to a sharp corner where the soft glow of more mushrooms lit up a long room. Piles of straw lined either side and five more of the pig creatures were inside. Setting my torch aside I glanced around the corner and surveyed the room. Three of the creatures were standing around talking in grunting voices too low for me to hear. Another was swinging its club around as if practicing, and the last was snoring soundly on a pile of straw. At the end of the long room was a very large wooden door with some sort of carving on it. A door that large must lead somewhere important, I thought as I stared at it intently. The Lifespring is probably through there.

      I leaned back and thought about the situation I was in. There was no way I could knock all five of the creatures unconscious without starting a difficult battle. The noise might also alert other creatures or enemies nearby. Then again, if these creatures were friendly they might help me cure the Oak. Unfortunately, that was impossible to tell unless I allowed them to see me; that was not a risk I felt like taking. Just because the Grand Oak called me a hero doesn't mean I'm capable of acting like one.

      A familiar sound drew me away from my thoughts. It sounded like hooves coming my way. I looked around the tunnel in the dim light and wondered how a horse could even fit down here. The hoofbeats slowed as I saw a cloaked figure emerge from the darkness. The rider that had guided me to the Oak approached without a sound. It looked at me and then walked forward to look into the long room. As I peeked around the corner I realized none of the creatures noticed the rider. Curious, I turned back to the rider and looked closer. It was difficult to tell in the darkness but it appeared to be slightly see-through. What had the Oak called it? The Spirit of the Lost? So did I become lost because of the rider, or was I lost when it found me in Dower?

      The spirit pointed at my bow and then into the room with the creatures. I frowned and shook my head. It pointed more insistently as if it were demanding I kill them.

      "What if they are not evil?" I hissed. "I have never met such creatures; I don't know if they mean any harm."

      The spirit then pointed from them to me and slid a finger across its throat. I glanced hesitantly back at the creatures. Perhaps it was better not to risk it....

      As I nocked an arrow in my bow and readied myself, the spirit nodded in satisfaction and disappeared back down the tunnel. The sound of hooves quickly receded. After a deep breath, I pivoted around the corner and aimed for the creature swinging its club around. My hands shook slightly as I tried to get a good shot, but the arrow hit its mark well enough. Before the creature had fallen to the ground I was back around the corner and readying another arrow. There was a shuffling of feet and grunted chatter as the three that had been talking gathered around their companion. When I turned back around the corner all three had their backs to me and weren't even trying to find where the arrow had come from.

      I loosed three arrows in quick succession and each hit its mark. With those three down, I moved a bit further into the room to get a better view of the sleeping one. It had only just begun to stir when the three had fallen to the ground so I waited patiently until it sat up drowsily. My eyes closed as the creature's body fell back down as if it had gone back to sleep. After a moment to stop the shaking in my hands, I went to each body and collected my arrows. All of my attention went to the door at the far end of the room then.

       The door looked ancient. It was almost as if it were part of the tree. The carving on it depicted a forest being grown from a spring, and a single large tree grown over the spring as if to protect it. I gingerly touched the carvings and suddenly they lit with the same blue light as the mushrooms. It spread until the entire carving was outlined with light. When nothing else happened I looked closer. A keyhole was situated within the carving. I groaned and started looking around the room. After searching everywhere and the fallen creatures, I frowned at the tunnel I’d come in through. Perhaps the key was down that final path? Grabbing my torch as I passed by, I made my way swiftly to the intersection.

      This tunnel was darker than the rest and I thought I could hear something further in. Soon I came to another intersection leading two ways. A faint blue light was coming from the path to my right, so I turned that way first. However, the sound I had heard before seemed to be getting louder in this direction. I set down my torch and drew my bow before creeping towards the light carefully. The tunnel ended in a small room with a pool of water. A handful of glowing mushrooms were growing along the water’s edge, yet the water seemed darker than it should have been. Creeping to the edge of the pool I knelt down and studied it. The light of the mushrooms were reflected on the surface, yet they didn’t make it possible to see into the water. Curious I pulled out my hunting knife and dipped the tip into the water. It came away with a strange thick liquid clinging to it.

      As I turned to leave behind the odd pool I came face to face with a set of eight black eyes. Dropping to the ground from its strand of webbing, a large black spider hissed angrily at me. I dropped my knife and pulled out my bow quickly, but the spider lunged forward immediately. Rolling to the side to dodge it I fumbled to nock an arrow. Then I noticed a second spider, barely visible by the light of the mushrooms, was creeping down the wall by the pool. With my heart hammering in my chest I let loose an arrow at the spider on the wall. It hissed as my arrow found its neck and fell into the black liquid. An awful screeching and hissing noise filled the room as I watched the spider’s hairy legs get sucked into the liquid.

      I barely had time to recover when the first spider lunged forward again. With little room to dodge the spider’s mandibles found my forearm. My cry of pain echoed through the room as I swung my bow at the monster. It let go and retreated a few feet as if waiting to see what I’d do. Blood was pouring out of the wound on my arm and I felt a painful heat quickly spread throughout my entire arm. Poison, I cursed inwardly.

      Seeing that I was too weak to move the spider once again came at me. I twisted my body away so that its mandibles missed me. Clutching an arrow from my quiver, I plunged it deep into one of the spider’s many eyes. It screeched in pain as it back away, writhing before slowly flipping onto its back as its legs curled inward.

     I sat there for a time staring at the spider’s body. My heart refused to slow down, even after several deep breaths. Finally I gave up and started tearing strips of cloth from the leg of my trousers. After tying several layers securely over my wound I stood and recovered my hunting knife. With no desire to have my arrow back I shuffled out of the room and straight towards the other tunnel. This time the small room I came to held no signs of spiders. There was a single box on a pedestal and two standing torches left unlit. The box, unfortunately, was sealed shut. After trying for several minutes to open it, I growled in frustration.

      “What am I doing?” I said aloud to myself. “I can’t be a hero.”

      Gazing around the room again, I realized how dark it was. What if more spiders came? I wouldn’t even be able to see them. Quickly I lit the two torches with my own. As they blazed to life there was a distinct click! When I turned around the small box was open, revealing a key made of what looked like a vine. I picked it up and found myself chuckling. This was all so ridiculous! Monsters, labyrinths, puzzles to find keys, and large doors with images from before man existed. Is this what all the Ancient Heroes had to deal with?

      Suddenly a noise seemed to be coming from the box. I drew forward carefully only to jump back as thousands of small spiders just like the ones by the black pool came surging out of it. The sound of their little legs sent shivers up my spine as I turned and bolted back along the tunnels. As I turned towards the tunnel leading to the large door I noticed the spiders had started scurrying along the walls in an effort to outrun me. I pushed myself ahead, sprinting down the long room and fumbling with the key when I reached the door. In my panic I dropped the key and looked behind me as I bent to pick it up.

      The spiders had stopped just two feet away as if an invisible wall was holding them back. I watched as more and more spiders swarmed into the room until every inch of wall and floor was made black and moving. With my face drained of color, I slid down the door to sit as I stared blankly at the blackness. There was so much of it, consuming everything with no hope of light. I gazed at my small haven and up at the glowing door. How could this old door keep back so much darkness?

      “What’s the matter, Mr. Hero?” A feminine voice spoke suddenly. “Giving up before you’ve started?”

      My eyes darted to someone floating in midair over the spider-covered floor. The person looked to be female, but not really human. She had the shape of one but looked see-through like the Spirit of the Lost, the edges of her wispy like smoke. Her eyes and hair seemed the only parts that were real and that was mostly due to their color. Brilliant short red hair flowed around her face as if she were underwater, and her large golden eyes stood out against her dark, shadowy skin. I gaped at her without answering and soon she started tapping her foot in the air.

      “Hello! What, never seen a spirit before? Better get used to it Mr. Hero, cause you’re gonna find a whole lot of them.”

      “Spirit?” I spoke cautiously. “Like the Spirit of the Lost?”

      She rolled her eyes, “Not quite. Anyways you better pull yourself together. There’s a lot riding on you, you know!”

      “But why me?” I muttered sullenly.

      Suddenly the girl flew through the air so that her face was inches from mine.

      “Don’t feel so sorry for yourself! It’s your job to heal this tree and help the other gods, so get to it already! Stop being lazy and do something for once!”

      We stared at each other for awhile. When I didn’t answer she scoffed and floated away. As she went I heard her mutter something about “...helping someone so useless…”

      “Wait!” I scrambled to my feet. “Are you here to help me?”

     She turned and scowled at me, “ Actually, I was going to make you help me, but obviously you’re just useless. Some Ancient Hero you are.”

      My cheeks burned with anger, “Well you sure talk big, whoever you are. Why don’t you go fix your problem yourself?”

      “Believe me, if I could I would. Looks like I’m stuck with you though. Not that you’d even remember to help me on your own,” She sighed dramatically and turned her head away. “I’ll just have to follow you until you get it done.”

      I blinked. “What?”

      “You heard me,” She glared, stomping her foot in the air. “Now hurry up and open the door so we can get out of here! I hate spiders.”

      That makes two of us, I grumbled to myself as I turned and inserted the key into the door. It creaked loudly as it slowly swung open. Wary of the darkness I saw just inside I readied my bow. The spirit girl flew past me impatiently, her hair the only thing visible in the darkness.



© 2018 Natasha Reams



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Added on February 9, 2018
Last Updated on February 9, 2018


Author

Natasha Reams
Natasha Reams

Anderson, AK



About
Hi, thanks for reading my stuff in advance. I LOVE wolves, and supernatural romances are my favorite books. I have two dogs (one of which is named Samwise Gamgee so I'm pretty nerdy) and I used to own.. more..

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