Monday, August 04, 2014

Scramblers in Darkness

NOTE: This is chapter nine of my NaNoWriMo entry, A Scoundrel's Missives. I don't know, but I think it still feels cohesive when torn away from the rest of the story. Enjoy!

I was awakened by someone’s vigorous shaking and the sound of Valdin’s raving filled my head. I struggled to regain my senses, having no idea how long I was asleep. I asked my companions what happened, and the dwemer replied that we had to hurry and try to return to the gate as quickly as we possibly could.

Confused and still not able to get the sleep off my tired eyes, I asked what the reason for the urgency was. Valdin hushed me and whispered that we had to start moving silently back the way we came. He added that we hold our torches ready as soon as we returned to the lower chambers.

Perhaps it was my incessant barrage of questions that annoyed them while he tried to walk as quickly as possible, so Ruso covered my mouth with his hand and tensely asked me to stop speaking and start listening.

I complied, and at first I could not hear anything besides the shuffling of our feet nor see anything beyond the soft blue glow of the growths along the rocks.

It was then that I heard some distant sounds, not unlike the scrambling of hundreds, if not thousands of feet. The sounds faintly but steadily grew louder in intensity and I realized that the noises came from almost every direction behind us – from the walls, the ceiling and from the ground itself. After a few tense moments that seemed like an eternity we reached the ledges and Valdin softly said that it was time we lit our torches. Hurriedly, they tried to light mine first – something that thankfully did not take too long.

As my torch began to emit a healthy blaze and my immediate surroundings became a bit more recognizable, I fancied a quick stare at the hallway from which we came from.

I was horrified by what I saw.

Hundreds of creatures, humanoid in appearance, stared back at us from the darkness. They were very pale in complexion and covered in mottled welts, as if their skin has never met warmth in their entire lives. The ones on the ground stood hunched, while the others somehow managed to cling to the walls and the ceilings as if their limbs were sticky enough to scale them. What was most unnerving were the creatures’ eyes – dead, milky-white eyes, almost whiter than their skin, stared back at us from the darkness.

An ear-splitting shriek broke our stare down. Ruso started screaming that I started to head down as quickly as possible, while he and Valdin prepared to follow after me. I did not need to be told twice, as I hurriedly clambered my way to the steep ledges into the tombs below.

A deafening sound thundered from above, followed by Valdin cursing and hurriedly climbing down after us. As I hit the ground, Ruso followed shortly behind.

Valdin was only halfway through and, as he noticed the creatures rapidly gaining on him, he rapidly weighed his options and let go of his grip. It seemed like an eternity before he hit the ground on his arm, and he screamed in agony mere moments after the impact. I hurriedly helped Valdin up as the first of the creatures leaped at us with Ruso catching it in mid-air with a swing of his mace, screaming for us to immediately run down the tombs into the gate’s direction and never look back – assuring that he would be following us closely.

The run towards the Gate and into Aeolon felt like forever. My pack was heavy and the straps started digging into my shoulders, adding to the agony of the already exhausting run. Valdin followed close behind clutching his arm, although I could not see nor hear any sign of our friend Ruso.

It was as if everything moved in slow motion. My legs seemed to cry out in pain and I felt my body throbbing with panic as the corridor seemed to stretch on forever, with the Gate, our only source of salvation, moving away from us.

After what seemed like an eternity, I managed to jump through the Gate back into Aeolon. I had not yet raised my head when a blinding light struck the Gate, followed by darkness and silence.

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