Eyes of the Sunken Hold- Part Three: awake.
Part Three: awake.
- 6. It writhes.
My head jolted above the water, and to my horror, the water rose with it. Swelling, lapping over the walkway. In the centre of the monumental chamber, something began to wake in the dark. That damned familiar hum had become louder, burning my ears and mind.
I moved away from the edge as quickly as I could. Tried to get the others to their feet and back moving again. They didn’t seem to understand me, so I tried to point to that ever growing silhouette that pushed the waters from below . They couldn’t see anything, I don’t think. But the waves grew higher, water that once lapped at our feet now threatened to push our legs over.
Then that hum once turned into a cry, I knew they could hear it this time. They winced in pain, then my legs felt the ground shift. The stone structure surrounding us began to break as the rising of the water and the force of this thing’s movements subjected it to stresses it was not made to withstand. Columns broke and walkways buckled. As it seems the deep had at last awoken to devour us.
Though the darkness obscured it’s already misshapen form it was clear to me that this being, which now seemed to rise to consume the emptiness under the great chamber, was vast beyond my comprehension. As it’s every twitch and undulation caused ripples and shockwaves from all areas of this bottomless drowned pit. Its tendrilled form no doubt extended to every water choked corner of the damned ruins below.
Sure enough, from below, something lashed out of the water, like the tail of a great serpent, but it dragged with it the white-robed body. The poor lass’s broken corpse was tossed against the wall like a rag doll. Angharad saw this, still conscious and with the last of her strength and fury moved her sword arm to look for her scabbard. She found only empty air, then began to crawl on her side to try and grab a rock only for Mari to pull her back. Just in time too, the floor she was trying to find a weapon on broke as something forced it to shatter upwards, a wave of water smashing it against the walls of the chamber, rending the stone into dust.
James had the right idea. Run. He tried to pull the Knight to her feet, Mari looked at first as though she was going to stand, to fight. But as her eyes moved up to the Monolithic thing that was emerging from the water, that endless blight of hateful eyes and spiteful flesh, she saw sense or perhaps madness. They dragged Angharad to her feet and went back the way we’d come away from the now collapsing stone floor. I stood, dumbstruck. I could not believe my vision, I could not comprehend what I saw before me. I went to touch my face, my scarf had fallen. I don’t know when, I hadn’t any idea. I hadn’t even noticed how easy I was able to breathe down here, in the heart of the madness. How could there be so many eyes watching me?
But the water reached my knees, and the thing was moving closer.
So I ran.
I caught up with the other three quickly and went to try to speed them up. But Angharad’s legs had lost their strength and we were dragging her through knee-deep water. I didn’t think we’d make it to the stairway in time. Unfortunately, I was right. Something, a wave of force maybe, a limb of the great beast perhaps, something swept up against us. Mari and I held on to Angharad and the wall for dear life, the water passed over us without dragging us away. James was not so lucky. I saw him struggle at the water's surface, before being dragged down. Mari drew her sword and went to dive in after. But I grabbed her hand. Someone needed to live through this and her Knight needed her. I told her to go, ordered her, I wasn't going to let the young die when an old man like myself could go instead. She gave me her sword and a nod.
Then I dove in.
I sank below the waves. It was almost tranquil under there, the water too murky to make out the danger, too stagnant to feel the full weight of the forces tearing this place apart. But I had no time for peace. I had someone to save.
As I plunged myself into the darkness after James I saw him, not just him. But I could just make out the glisten of a wiry chain of green matted flesh coiled around his leg. He was panicking hard, trying his best to swim upwards all the while being dragged down. Air escaped his mouth as he was too panicked to control his breathing, struggling so desperately he only noticed me when I finally caught up and managed to grab his hand. but to his surprise, I didn't pull him up. I dragged myself down. Close enough to give a swing at the tendril he was caught on. As I sliced against it, I felt the water vibrate, and a low roar filled my ears. It bled, I think, or at least the silver sword had some effect on it, as I parted it like a knife through water. James had shook himself, was able to come loose and began swimming up, myself following just below.
But then I made the mistake of checking behind us, to where the tendril skulked off to. So I looked directly at it. I’d been avoiding it till now, but there it was, close enough that it filled the edge of my whole darkened watery vision. Nothing but eyes, teeth, rage and unformed flesh. I could not see where it, the water or the stone that surrounded it ended, such distinctions didn’t matter to it. The only thing I knew for sure, was that those eyes, that rage were all directed at me.
The panic must have given my legs renewed strength on the upwards climb because before I knew it James had grabbed me and pulled on the wide stone railing which was now the only part of the walkway that could be stood on. We had what felt like a single moment of calm. I scanned around quickly, no sign of Mari, I didn’t look behind however. I still knew it was there. But we were trapped still. Luckily we had surfaced right at the centre of the northern wall. Near the entrance to the forge we had visited earlier. Meaning if we could get in there, we had another way up. James must have had the same idea as he’d already jumped over the other side of the railing and was trying to swim towards the entrance to the forge, telling me to follow.
I tried to catch my breath before swimming after him, an old man like me needed a moment longer than him, but I didn’t have a moment to spare. Because when I went to move something from the water took a hold of my leg.
- 7.Drowning without death.
It dragged me down. Faster this time, it’s grip so tight I feared my leg would be crushed.
I knew I could harm the thing with the sword I still held. But I couldn’t move my sword down to cut the thing again, I was moving too fast, the pressure of the water as I was being dragged down forced my arms upwards and all I could manage to was keep the few bits of air left in my lungs from escaping.
When it slowed dragging me down I was met with an ungodly sight, The eyes parted ways, in their place, the teeth. Arranged in rings, like a great whirlpool of knives it drew me in. Even then I couldn’t get my sword below my foot to free myself. I was helpless against it, as it prepared to rip me apart. I think at that moment my life flashed before my eyes. Everything I had thought of, everything I knew about this place raced through my head, I came up with little to help. All my mind could be sure of, was that death was near.
But then one thought, a pointless one stuck itself in the front of my mind.
-The floor had a constant trickle over it that flowed back towards where the entrance would be, the northern wall. Odd, I thought, that must mean the water still drains out somewhere..-
in that corridor we had walked earlier, it was flowing towards the northern wall. The very wall I was trapped next to. I had one hope, find where it flowed and pray that it could offer me escape.
The thing lunged at me with the force of a tidal wave. The force of its movement pushed all the water around me, slamming me against a sunken pillar. Immobile. But I Still gripped the sword. As it closed in, to drag me into its waiting maw, the water’s flow had lessened enough I could move my arm again, I mustered all the strength I could to thrust the sword right into the fetid orifice it called a mouth. I hit something fleshy. Or at least I think I did, the thing roared, the water, the stone, and my very being shook as it did so. Its uncountable teeth circled inwards crushing all in their way, first compacting the sword into scraps before taking my arm with it. Ripped to pieces by the relentless teeth. But it reared in shock and, thankfully, had let go.
I recoiled in pain, looked around desperately. I could feel my lungs almost empty, blood poured out of what remained of my arm. I needed to find where the water went. I was still falling of course. Didn’t have the strength or wits to try swimming up during all of that. I used what little strength I had to turn around to see the northern wall, I saw, at the bottom of it all. At the base of the Great walls of this chamber. A simple grate.
It was blocked of course. Looked like it had been covered by debris of the old civilization, rubbish really, the only real remnants of the dwarfs who lived here I'd seen.
I swam down towards it, my body beginning to fail me, my vision darkening around me. I could feel the movement of the water behind me as the thing began to lunge closer for another attack.
It was lucky it did, the force of the thing pushed the water and me down faster, till I was slammed into a corner of the grate.
It didn’t slow down. Don’t think it cared to toy with its food anymore, not after I stabbed it. As it began ramming towards me, with the very last ounce of strength I had left, with the one arm I had remaining, I pushed off the grate. Swiftly moving downwards. The thing’s immeasurable mass slammed into the grate with a force that could topple mountains. Crushing it thoroughly and breaking through not only the debris but the whole damn wall it was attached to. I could feel the water move immediately. Countless centuries of built-up water was now trying to escape all at once. An entire lost city's worth of water, stuck down here for uncountable years. It had at last a new path, and water cares not what stands in its way.
In this case the poor fools that tried to stand against the tide were Myself and this Creature. About to be at the epicentre of the entire torrent. This is where recalling events becomes difficult. I was pinned almost straight away, against a piece of metal grating that stayed stuck in place. The water rushed past me and I guess I was lucky, had I been in a slightly different place I would have been sucked through in the hole.
Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t as lucky. It’s endless mass now worked against it.
I know it began to thrash violently as the water rushed through the hole it had made. It screamed so loud my hearing gave out. It thrashed so hard I could have sworn I felt a whole section of the ruin give way. The countless eyes still burning with contemptuous rage. I don’t think it mattered, it would be taken, even further into the bowels of the earth with the waters. To somewhere far away, maybe now to the base of the world, where something like that belongs.
I don’t know for sure though, As the infernal wails of the beast grew so loud as to drown out my own thoughts. My eyes shut, my mind quietened, I slipped into sleep.
- 8.But living still.
I can’t tell you what happened after that, no one can. The two dwarfs were already at the surface by the time the awakening started. Though they heard it and felt it.
Mari had dragged Angharad to the stairway and up a floor, James managed to escape through the forge, hadn’t noticed I wasn’t following till he was already far away. They couldn’t see much from where they were, though they both remember what they heard. Once the shaking had stopped James went back into the main hall to try and see what had happened. Was shocked to find natural light pouring in. It seemed one of the walls had collapsed along with the mountain it sat under, letting the sunshine through. The water had drained too. Revealed a whole new layer of the main chamber they hadn’t seen, along with the once-grand waterworks that had once been planned, now dry of course. Most unlikely of all, laid in a puddle of water down there, a familiar body. Mine.
Mari took Angharad to the dwarfs while James found a way to climb down to me, found I was still alive, took me onto dry ground, and bandaged what he could. When Mari searched for anyone still alive she saw us. She came back to help, and the two of them managed to drag me out of there. Took me a while to wake up. Took Angharad almost as long after she finally collapsed from exhaustion When Mari finally got her to the dwarfs.
All in all, 7 out of the 11 people who first went on the expedition had survived. Only four were conscious at the time, but that didn’t matter. We had survived. What ,exactly, we had survived was still a question no one had an answer for.
To make matters worse we were all trapped just above the now even more ruined dwarven hold.
But I think this is where my tale should end. Armless, unconscious, trapped, but alive.
I’ll let James cover the rest, I know this whole recording our tales thing was his idea.
Besides I want to end my story differently. A warning, Do not try to find what lies below Hammerholm.
I can’t tell you if anything I'd see was real, no one else ever really got a good look at what lay down there. My scarf fell off me before I'd ever truly noticed it. But I’m not sure. Something had definitely ripped off my arm, broke the grate that freed the water. However after seeing the whole chamber in the light of day, there was no way something as big as what I saw could have lived down there, and where could it have gone. Did it get sucked away to gods know where, or did it manage to get away however it got in originally? I can’t answer these, I don't really want to. Damn, I can't even say the miasma was really there for sure. There isn’t any sign of it anymore but then again there is a way for it to drain and a new entrance to the outside, so the gases may have gone the way of the waters..
I can't explain what I saw, nor the existence of that creature with any logic of this world. I don’t want it to be real at the very least..
- 9.Humming to itself.
But you know what keeps me up at night. What makes me so sure you shouldn’t go looking. What keeps me seeing those eyes in my nightmares.
Well, if you go to the lowest parts of the hold, somewhere nice and quiet, and just sit, eventually you’ll hear it. Real distant, real faint, but it’s there. A single, constant, ever-so-quiet noise.
A single noise that’ll burn.
Expeditions to Molbrut-orhim part 2.
Malice of a Drowned City told by Osian Caddick.
Written and recorded by James Blethen.
Fabulous writing. I want more!