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[ACF2016] - To the Edge of the World We Wander

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posted on May, 19 2016 @ 03:08 AM
Pitter patter, pitter patter.
The steady stream of droplets never ceased, never slowed, never stopped.
We had managed to find an outcropping of rocks.
Those rocks would shelter our small fire from the merciless water.
This place had not seen a flame before.
I doubted it would see a flame again.
We would stay the night.
Myself, the weathered man, and the red lady.

Here we were.
The dreaded frontier at the end of the world.
It was known by humans as the Fellwilds, a fetid archipalaego of marsh and swamp rimmed by deep jungles of blood red trees.
It never saw the shining sun, the brilliant star was blocked by endless dark grey clouds.
The clouds never left.
Neither did the rain.

Civilization was scarce, even at the outskirts.
Villages with walls of wood and halls of mud and stone.
Nothing else.
The wetness made things difficult, steel would rust and wood would rot to dust.
Still, they found a way.

I found myself wondering why anyone would choose to live here at all.
The Fell is dangerous.
Yet, it is also very special.

Places where the water runs in every color imaginable and the rain burns like acid to the touch.
Creatures that stalk and crawl in dark places and have never seen the sun, with claws like diamond and limbs that bend in six places.
Ruins of a once great civilization that rode in steel carriages drawn by invisible horses.
Odd artifacts of twisted and unidentifiable material, with the power to heal or slow the ravages of time .
Foul wind that brings with it incurable insanity, its victims left gibbering and frothing with madness.

Some things are real, and some things are not.
Still, everyone who enters beyond the outskirts is forever changed by what they find.
For better, or for worse.
I tried to imagine what would happen to us.
Most results were unpleasant to consider.
Our small group of three.
Myself, the weathered man, and the red lady.

We each had our own reasons for being here.
The weathered man for penance.
The red lady for knowledge.
And I, in search of wealth.
We are only together by chance.
Stragglers of a larger outing who lost our path but found each other.

Pitter, patter.
A twig snaps in the distance and I hear a squelch, my hand is lain to rest atop my sword.
The man chuckles and tells me I needn't bother.
What I fear itself fears the burning light.
Here by the fire, we would be safe.
I think it is best to be sure.
My hand does not move.

The lady complains about the sound of the rain.
She says it annoys her, that everything annoys her.
She questions herself as to why she was so stupid.
She bemoans that the only people left to protect her are a young boy and on old man.
She wanted to see the wonders this place held.
Not sit under a rock, cowering from the darkness.

I helpfully point out that the rock is all that protects our fire.
Our fire is all that protects us from whatever it is out there that screeches in the night.
She glares at me, but I pretend not to notice.
The man is quite jovial, he laughs again despite his weathered face.

"Since we're going to be stuck here until dawn, why don't we share some stories to pass the time?"
The grin still had not left his face.
Was he pretending?
Was he a fool?
Or had he seen so many things he no longer felt fear?
Perhaps it was all three.

He puts on a mock frown.
"Neither of you two seem very likely to talk, so I suppose I'll go first."
At that point, he removes the coverings of his left arm.
What had been hidden beneath shirt and armor made my eyes snap open.
The red lady looked like she wanted to scream.

The flesh bulged where it had been lacerated and healed improperly.
Deep gouges where chunks of meat had been torn free from bone.
It was an old wound, long since healed, but that did not make it any less unpleasant.
I couldn't believe it was still attached at all.

That foolish smile in spite of such twisted visage.
"That got your attention, didn't it?"
He had meant to shocks us.
He had succeeded.

"You've heard the stories of the things that live here, haven't you? I and this arm can attest that those tales are not myths. They are very real."

This time the expression was serious.

"A long time ago I was part of an expedition, one of the early ones. We stumbled across old ruins yet to be discovered, in the deep parts of the jungle. Huge and tall buildings square made from what seemed like solid stone, sunk deep into the ground. Small doors too high from the floor made of glass on every level, metal boxes filled with arcane devices."

"Those... Those sorts of things are what I'm looking for..."
The red lady still seemed terrified.

"Myself as well, though I feel our reasons may be quite different."

I spoke out, too.

The man continued his story.

"We found other things, too. Other things found us. After we left that place odd noises followed. Chittering that seemed to come from everywhere. At night, others would disappear without a trace. It wasn't until the fourth day when our numbers had been significantly whittled away, as we neared a village, neared safety, that we were attacked."

"Attacked? By what?"
A deep seated dread told me I already knew the answer.

"I cannot say. There were many of them, the size of huge dogs. They crawled on all fours but looked like they were built for standing upright. Claws, long claws, and teeth, so many teeth, and so much blood.
Fast, too. Faster than you would expect. They descended like locusts, ripping and shredding and screeching and tearing. I was lucky. I was at the vanguard, the closest to the town. I ran, and didn't look b2ack until one of them caught my arm.
It might have been the leader, it was larger and a different color to the others. It only had me for a second before the guards rushed out of the gate and forced it to retreat, but you saw what it did in that short time.
It's true that I was young then, weak, inexperienced, but even today I am not sure I could have fought back."

The poor lady was looking more and more frightened.
I felt sympathetic.

The clownish grin had dropped from his face.
"So take my advice. Return. You aren't too far from safety yet. It's not too late. Some ventures return unscathed and some only take minor losses, but not every one is so lucky. This place isn't like the mainland, the creatures here are like nowhere else.
They're afraid of fire but fire is hard to come by.
They don't like light but it doesn't always matter.
They'll bleed and die but even a moment of bad luck spells certain doom.
Nothing here is worth what you're risking.
Turn back."

I find myself wearing a resigned smile at his lecture.

"I'm sorry, but I don't have a choice."
The red lady seemed to share my sentiment.
The man's smile returns, though it seems more weary than before.

"If that is your decision and that is how you feel, then forge on we will. Your reasons must be great indeed to force you two to brave a hell such as this.
I'll take first watch, sleep well."

As if anyone would be able to sleep well after hearing that story.
There was nowhere comfortable to lay, either.
I made do with a shelf of damp rock.

The red lady whispered.
Despite her apparent fear she seemed to have no difficulty drifting off.

Off, and off, to darkness.

The morning would come, and then we would continue.

posted on May, 19 2016 @ 11:33 AM
a reply to: Eilasvaleleyn

I read your story earlier. Very nice S/F

posted on May, 21 2016 @ 05:13 PM
I read your story earlier and enjoyed it and flagged and starred you, but I never know what to say really with commenting on other people's work. But thought I would comment on it now to give it a little boost upwards, since maybe it was missed and that's why it's not stickied yet.


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