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Author Topic: Touch of Eternity  (Read 5326 times)
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Artimidor Federkiel
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« on: 29 November 2012, 04:01:52 »

Teaser so far of an upcoming horror/mystery story as promised in another thread:

Teaser

The following rather unlikely tale was related to us by a young bedraggled fellow who one day showed up in a tavern of Ch'ka'rish, a small village on the Santharian isle of Churican. His story describes the journey he took with a no less venturous companion to the notorious Aeyshwyn's Mire, where he hoped to gain wealth and fame by discovering immeasurable treasures. Now, did he find all those things, I hear you ask? Well, keep in mind that the heart of this vast marshland in the center of the island is allegedly haunted, and the saying goes that it harbours an ancient wizard's tower which has been defying the ages for millennia. Strange phenomena are regularly reported from those living nearby, treasure hunters who sought their luck in the past have disappeared in droves, and of those few who returned some refuse to answer questions to this day or were apparently driven mad by what they encountered deep in the swamps. Beware, adventurers, beware! "Let the Gods choose their own heroes! As those that reach out for the stars themselves are doomed," the Erpheronians use to say. So then, courageous readers, let's hear what lurks there in the mire and what it has to offer. And maybe, just maybe, it brings a hero, or a fool, a tad closer to nothing less than... immortality.


Part I

My name is Myrem. And I might be a fool as well, I give you that. But I'm not one of those that tell a Sinkel's tale. I know what I've seen, and every single one of the Twelve be my witness. All I can ask from you is to believe what I'm going to tell you. If you doubt it, it is your choice to prove me wrong. But be warned, and listen carefully to my tale first to learn the price you'd have to pay. Many a fool has stumbled laughing into what turned out to be the wide open maw of his doom.

See, I'm just a baker's son from Milkengrad. Don't blame me for trying to be something else. However, that's just the way we humans are - at least that's what I heard a sage once say, and I think I believe in that. Then again it all wasn't my idea to go treasure hunting out there on Churican, I can assure you. It was Albricht's, and Albricht read a lot of books on the matter. Besides, my blessed father always used to say: There must be a grain of truth in every lie. Thus I thought: Maybe there are even more grains to be found the more you hear about certain things, and who says that grain doesn't sometimes translate to gold? Especially when such rumours deal with what's happening over there in those Churican swamps. I was intrigued, I admit. I desperately wanted to know. I thought there must be something out there, if not gold, then fame and fortune, and so thought Albricht. That's all there is to it and why we set out to look for ourselves as so many others have done. We were not the first ones. But one needs to dig up something. Truth or treasure, one of those. At least that was my reasoning.

So this is what we've heard: That Aeyshwyn's Mire is notorious, that it's cursed and God forsaken, that the Churicans themselves shun it like the plague. For one because they think that a bog like this tarnishes their beautiful land, that island full of green hills that stretch far and wide like waves. And secondly they all seem convinced that only something unnatural could have caused the mire to even exist in the midst of all that beauty, something related to dark, accursed magic. Well, and that those Erpheronians prefer the sharp sword over the fiddling of a mage's chaotic mind is commonplace. That's why the people must have dreamt up something: That a wizard once lived where now lies that ugly swamp. They say that he was quite a rich one, for he built a gigantic tower to overlook the lands. In his obsession to create who-knows-what he commissioned traders to get him the most rare and precious reagents from far away continents, yes, they say he collected artifacts and powerful scrolls and only a selected few were allowed to enter his domain and deliver to him all he ever wished for. What exactly happened to him nobody could tell us, only that he was never heard of again at some point and that adventurers who travelled the swamps got lost there as if swallowed by some unknown evil. Ha, same old story, right? Sounds familiar, eh? Well, and so people simply ceased to go there. But they never fell silent when it came to speculation.

It was late Sleeping Dreameress when we finally got there ourselves. The summer sun was still burning hot down on us as we reached the place that is so shrouded in legend - Aeyshwyn's Mire. Vast stretches of sheer endless water greeted us from afar forming a gigantic, mud covered lake, interspersed with a multitude of smaller isles harbouring huge trees, yealm and life reeds growing all over the place. Making steady progress was quite a feat. Thanks to a fisher who lives at the far end of the southern marshlands we got a boat though for our journey, and with it we chose the most promising waterpath to travel north as rapidly as the swamp allowed. It took us about a day and half a night to reach the heart of it, to get there where the unknown was awaiting. What more can I say? Only that it began then – that, what never should have happened at all.

It was the morning of the third day, I remember. We had spent the night covered in blankets in our tiny boat in what looked like a secure isle's bay. Tucked away under a group of willows and redwoods the night was rather hot and thus unpleasant given the circumstances, but otherwise it was without incidents, and so we set out again after we'd rested to continue with our mission. It was then that we saw something in the distance. It was moving closer, coming downstream towards us. Early morning mist was creeping over the water, but while the mysterious object was difficult to spot at first, it became clearer and clearer the nearer we got.

There was no doubt: It was a boat, a rowing boat, just like ours. While it was approaching, it was still quite a distance away, but eventually I thought that I could make out two people sitting in it, rowing back in the direction we had been coming from. Other treasure hunters maybe, I thought to myself, but whether they had been successful or not, they were clearly in a hurry to get out. Yet it appeared that they didn't notice us at all, or didn't want to notice us, going straight past! And that was the point when Albricht and I looked at each other bewildered by the strangeness of the whole situation. They must have seen us!

"Ho, travellers!" I shouted out. I quit rowing and waved with my hat. "Where are you going? What are you running from?" But already at the very moment I finished, I saw that there was actually only a single person sitting in the boat when it emerged from a waft of mist. The man was rowing incessantly and did not even look over to us.

Finally there was a reaction from the other boat: "Turn around, I beg you!" the shout came back, though there was no slow-down of oar strokes to be perceived. The stranger's voice was clearly trembling. It sounded scared and insecure, but the message it bore left no doubts. "Turn around before it's too late!" it repeated. But within moments the passing boat was engulfed again by mist and with its disappearance the last spoken words slowly drowned in the distance: "Turn around! Leave this place..."

Only the two of us remained, mouth agape. I found myself still hunched over the side of the boat, eyes fixed on the spot in the haze where that fleeting apparition had just gone by and from where not another sound could be heard. As if the cryptic stranger had never been there in the first place. I turned around and looked at my companion with questions all over my face.

But Albricht was just sat there, then shrugged and went on rowing. After a while I gave up as well, put my hat back on my head and I joined in. In a way I think, the warning of the stranger had quite the opposite effect from the one he intended: It only strengthened our resolve to continue on, and so we did. It's odd, but true, now that I think of it, and my hair stands on end when I do.

However, this encounter was not the only mystery we experienced as we got closer to the center of the swamp. The further we travelled, the eerier the place became. In the middle of the day a greyness, followed by a twilight, then a dreary darkness quickly descended upon us. The air was still hot and humid, but in a way everything was filled with a mix of otherwordly aura that slowly bled through the despair and hopelessness of the swamp. The darker it got, the more the water seemed to glitter and gleam bizarrely, almost as if we were moving through a dream, and sometimes I imagined that I might awake every moment. But I didn't. The wafts of mist got thicker and thicker, slowing us down considerably. There was always a fear that we might hit land or driftwood and make acquaintance with the mud first hand.

At some point in the distance we then began to see wisps dancing. You know wisps? Those floating balls of light? But they are harmless beings as far as I know, well, and they gathered around us, swirling and twirling to and fro. First they appeared right ahead, then they suddenly showed up behind us and finally on all sides, as if they were forming a circle. Maybe they were building a trap I thought, and I contemplated whether a sword might have any effect on magical beings like those. You know, just in case they were in fact evil, despite all the common belief that tells us otherwise. What are the Erpheronians thinking, I mused: How can a sword’s steel ever beat magic like this? Then again, maybe the wisps just wanted to watch us. After all they didn't get closer and stayed where they were, adding merely a solemn touch to our adventure into no man's land. If that were all, I could live with that.

We were still too immersed in taking in the astonishingly odd scenery, so that the loud rolling thunder brutally jolted us out of our quiet fascination. The heavy rain came suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly. Before long we were soaking wet. There was really nothing we could do, except pulling our hats over the ears - well, and hoping that the worst would soon be over. From time to time flashes of lightning bathed the swamp in blinding white for an instance or two, then the storm plunged us back into utter darkness.

However, more than just the weather had changed. There was something different about the circling wisps far off. When lightning struck and a flash painted everything in bright light the wisps seemed to disappear completely for a few moments - but once darkness reigned again they were very much alive, circling, swirling and twirling as if nothing had happened. Another flash of light, another one - and the same thing happened over and over again. I still stared at the wisps when I felt Albricht's elbow hit my side.

"There... Can you see it?" he suddenly whispered and pointed somewhere into the darkness. I followed his finger with my eyes, assuming he spoke about the weirdly behaving wisps as well, but all I could make out was a small island with a couple of trees. In front of it lay a giant redwood, brought down by the elements, halfway submerged by the swamp waters. It didn't strike me as anything special, so I shrugged it off at first. But then lightning flashed our surroundings again.

And I saw it: For the blink of an eye a building was there right in front of us. No, not just a building, it was a whole palace! More than a dozen of bulbous spires were towering above the swamp, a huge gate was clearly visible in the center of a massive wall, lots of banners blowing in the wind hanging from the windows. And the redwood in front of it at which I had just looked... was gone!

I was taken aback by the unexpected sight. I nearly caused our boat to capsize when I slipped from the oar I was holding and desperately grabbed the boat’s side.

"It's... it's..." My eyes were still taking it all in. "It's a whole town..." I finally shouted as I noticed further man made structures in the background. I looked left and right, and there were buildings everywhere. A market place, an inn, a small turret... Then darkness again, several long moments... Only to be followed once more by repeated flashes of lightning. With them the whole outline of the city came into view, strike by strike... There! I saw a rider entering the main gate, guards walking on the battlements with torches ablaze, a carriage was travelling over a hill to the east that I was sure hadn't been there before... Moment for moment this intangible sight was revealed to us only to be buried again and again by night. Wherever it came from, whatever it represented, illusion or reality, dream or vision, my eyes were awestruck again and again and just couldn't let go of what presented itself to them. My heart raced wildly, spurred by the irregular pulse of the storm and its unlikely revelations.

Until that loud, violent, bloodcurdling bang.

The bang that brought an abrupt end to rain, lightning and the darkness that had engulfed us. It was as if a titan had hit a skywide drum, with the echo reverberating throughout the swamp sending jittering waves over the thick greenish-brown waters. The sound's force was so enormous that we had to hold on to our tiny boat, only barely escaping a wet fate.

But then, in the blink of an eye, when the echos of the bang had trailed off, it was all over. Everything fell silent. The turbulence that had gripped the world around us had come to a standstill.

We found ourselves sitting in the boat, drifting somewhere in the middle of the notorious Aeyshwyn's Mire - two adventurers, first teased, then surprised, shocked and confused by circumstances they failed to understand. It was as if everything had come apart at the seams, but only as long as to be able to marvel at it and question our perception. Looking out over the waters again now everything was pretty much the same as before. The swamp was steamy, muddy, uninviting as ever. The sky had turned back to grey and wafts of mist began to retake their territory by moving across the bog. And right ahead was that small island Albricht had just pointed at: A fallen giant redwood lay in front of it, but there was no sign of a palace anymore, no streets, flags, hills or carriages, and most certainly no town.


Part II

I looked at Albricht and Albricht looked at me.

"What do you make of it?" I inquired.

"I don't know," Albricht said. "But we came to find out, didn't we?" His eyes glowed with expectation.

I was quiet for a moment, thinking about the phenomenons, then my thoughts drifted off to the stranger we had seen before. He probably had made it even further into the swamp, who knows? But it looked like he was forced to turn around and get away as fast as he could. "Leave this place!" I heard his warning still ringing in my ears. In the face of what we had witnessed, his words sounded more and more like a deadly threat. But I said nothing. Maybe it was because the sound of Albricht's oar dipping into the water had already broken the silence. A moment later we both continued rowing towards our fate. "Leave this place..." My mind however wouldn't let it go.

We didn't row for long. At some point the swamp came to a sudden end. Or so it seemed, as either we had come across a huge isle, or somehow we had completely crossed the whole mire, which however was highly unlikely, to say the least. An entire strip of land lay just ahead of us, with a clearly visible path that led up to a hill climbing high above the haze that covered ground and water. Believe it or not, there was even a makeshift dock at the water's edge right there, awaiting us. Even though I wondered who might have put it there and how long ago such a thing had happened, the fact that it was there was good enough to make us steer towards it.

It was then that I had another sensation I couldn't explain. You know, for a moment it was as if I saw a boat moored already on that dock, I was very sure about it. But when we got there, nothing could be seen. See, I put the blame on the fog and the tricks it keeps playing to the eye, and when I kept doubting that it was the fog I said to myself that it must be my clouded state of mind that made me see things. Anyway, Albricht was bent on climbing that hill and see what was on the other side and we didn't lose time. I just wordlessly packed my things as Albricht did and we continued on foot, following the path that lay ahead.

When we arrived at the top of the hill the evening sun had already begun to descend behind our backs, and while we had kept the mist behind, greyness now had utterly reconquered the sky. High grasses and bushes were swaying in the wind on the way up, and the occasional trees on our wayside turned into a whole forest the higher we got. But once on top, there was no view to enjoy as we had hoped, rather the trail wound through dense thicket with no apparent end in sight, and the further we got, the more darkness took over. Along with it came disillusion and weariness. We travelled on for a while, but eventually we stopped and decided to rest in order to continue in the morning fresh and renewed. A campfire was quickly put together, our rations plundered. Then we both succumbed to our exhaustion, too tired to even think about all that had transpired during this eventful day.





"Myrem! Get up! Myrem!"

When I opened my eyes it was still pitch-black around me, only the campfire was ablaze spreading warmth. I recognized Albricht shaking me vehemently, eventually completely tearing me out of my sleep. His tone was urgent and demanding.

I quickly grabbed my dagger I had hidden under my hat close by. A moment later I was on my knees, ready to strike.
But Albricht just tried to keep me quiet. "Hush..." he commanded. "Don't move." He pushed me away a bit from the fire, then motioned towards something in the distance. "Look! Do you see it?"

My eyes still only slowly adjusted to the darkness, but luckily the night had a full moon, which shed some light on our surroundings.

Indeed, there was something: Another light source was right ahead. It was difficult to judge in the cover of the night, but it appeared to be no less than a hundred peds away, partly obstructed by trees, but bright as day. It was no wisp, of that I was sure immediately, as it was no orb and didn't move around, it looked more like...

"A campfire!" Albricht said. "Someone's out there."

I nodded. The same thing had come to my mind as well.

"What do we do now?"

"Who knows who it is..." Albricht said. "They might be bandits, or treasure hunters like ourselves, and not keen on having company at all. We better be careful."

"What if..." I began, but then something happened that made me stop.

The spot at which we had been staring, the camp fire - at least that's what we guessed it to be - suddenly vanished. Night took over again, barely illuminated by the moonshine from above.

"Quick, quick... We have to put ours out too. Come, toss some earth over it!" Albricht said. He dug with his hands in the dirt and covered the still glowing logs with it. I joined in and soon we had our fire entirely buried. Only the moonlight from above remained as the only light source.

"You think they have seen us? Have they covered their fire as well?" I asked. "Maybe they did it because they've seen ours?"

"I don't know. How would I?" I couldn't see Albricht's expression, but the tone in his voice confirmed that he was as worried as I.

We kept quiet for a while, listening intently. I noticed how Albricht's breath became heavier. There was a sound in the distance, maybe people moving.

"That's them... We have to assume they saw us," Albricht whispered and I heard him rummaging in his backpack - clearly he was also looking for a weapon to confront possible attackers. Once he had found one, he ordered me to grab our stuff. "We need to move away from here... They might be heading towards us right now."

Sweat dripped from my brow as we left the campfire as quietly as we possibly could. While it was difficult to move in the darkness, we were also cloaked by it. We managed somehow to get quite a bit away from our starting point, but I wasn't too sure whether we actually moved away from our possible opponents or even involuntarily got closer.

"By the Twelve!" Albricht suddenly exclaimed, grabbing my hand and pulling me back, so that I tumbled and fell. I cursed and feared that the others might have overheard the commotion, but then I realised what Albricht had seen.

Right in front of us, as if apeared out of nowhere, a gigantic canyon opened its maw into nothingness, and every further step would have been our sure demise.

We lay there for a few moments unmovingly on what we now knew was a precipice. Wild thoughts were racing through my head. I was worried that we might have been heard when we hit the ground and that our pursuers drew closer now, weapons drawn, a clear goal in mind - and that we had nowhere to go.

"Where are they?" I whispered to Albricht. "Where should we head now?"

"They must be on the other side," Albricht answered calmly. "Over that canyon."

"What? You sure?"

He motioned me to follow him, and we kept moving on our knees carefully along the edge of the precipice, step by step in the half-dark, until we made a startling discovery: No less than a few peds away from us a rope bridge led over the canyon. It was quite an unsteady affair as far as we could make out. The creaking and groaning of the ropes holding the boards was clearly audible when the wind shook the whole construction, but otherwise the bridge seemed to be intact.

As if this wasn’t enough, my heart missed a beat when we made another observation: Something flared up out of nowhere, a source of light. It was way ahead of us, then it was replaced by flickering. Clearly the newly created light was now slowly beginning to move towards us. I also heard something that must have been a muffled shout.

"They've lit a torch!" I exclaimed, there was no doubt about that.

"Yes..." Albricht agreed. "And they are on the other side of that bridge. If they try to come across we'll be waiting for them right here. We have the advantage now, Myrem! Quick, we have to move..."

We brought us in position at the end of the bridge and watched things proceed, hiding behind the bushes with bated breath.

Yes, someone had indeed stepped onto the bridge! Its creaking and groaning became more intense, the flickering of the torch that at first had seemed to be still quite a distance away, drew nearer and nearer. I gripped the dagger in my hand even tighter and bit my lip in tense anticipation. I was sure that I could already smell the burning resin of the torch. Only a few moments until we would confront them...





Part III

A flash, a yell, a fierce gust of wind.

Lightning ripped the night. It came out of nowhere, its fine illuminated cracks spreading like veins from one end of the sky to the other. For a moment everything was bathed in white again: the precipice, the rope bridge, figures in the middle of it, gigantic ruins on the other side... Yes, there were ruins that emerged out of the night on the other side of the canyon, several long fingers of broken walls reaching out against the elements in a stance of defiance...

But it was all over once the flash faded, gone as suddenly as it had appeared. Peace and quiet settled, only the creaking and groaning of the bridge still kept us company.
There was no light to be seen anymore coming from the bridge.

"The wind must have blown out their torches!" I suggested.

But we waited and waited, and no torch was being rekindled. The silence, only disturbed by the howling of the wind and the sound of the bridge, turned eerier.

"I'm going," Albricht suddenly said resolutely, grabbed his backpack and pulled a torch from it.

"But... They will see you!" I objected stubbornly.

"There's nobody there anymore," Albricht answered. "Let's face it. They must have fallen off the bridge." The howling of the wind, a song of death...

"You can't be sure! And what if it is true... If you cross the bridge the same might happen to you! Who knows whether it's safe at all!"

"Then let's see," Albricht said and entered the bridge without further ado.

"You're mad!" I shouted, but he went anyway.

At first I watched Albricht and his flickering torch depart with unease. Apparently the bridge was robust enough to support him and allowed to proceed fast. But the further he progressed the more I found myself in the dark when his torch moved further and further away.

"Don't tarry, coward! Come!" I heard Albricht's command. He had turned around and waited on me now to catch up.

Frankly, I didn't have much choice. We were in this together. So I reluctantly obeyed and followed his example climbing onto the rope bridge.

There was really nothing to it, I thought. While the bridge only offered room for one, I could easily hold on to the ropes on either side which formed a railing, and the ropes were tight and strong. I felt confident. The logs below held our weight with ease and while the wind shook the construction, it wasn't enough to really bother me. And maybe, just maybe, it helped that the night kept us us from seeing down the whole depth of the canyon. Thus we just kept on moving, step by step. A silent prayer was on my lips nevertheless. Soon I had caught up with Albricht.

"See? Nobody there anymore!" Albricht said as we were halfway through. The torchlight showed that the rest of the bridge was clear. I breathed a sigh of relief, but only to be violently interrupted...

A sudden gust of wind knocked me off my feet. Caught unaware I tumbled and fell.

"Albricht!!" I screamed in deadly terror, grabbed whatever rope of the bridge I could hold onto. I hit the logs hard, but quickly pulled myself up.

"I told you!" I yelled against the wind. "I told you!" But the wind swallowed my words that not even I could hear them.

There was another lightning, a flash that brought the gigantic ruins up ahead back from nothingness into plain view. The silhouettes of the broken building appeared closer than ever before. The closer they appeared, the more menacing they became. The stone structure which had looked like fingers reaching out before seemed to turn into a claw now. A claw that beckoned us.

Our torch had gone out. Darkness engulfed us, but the wind had ceased.

"Stay calm!" I heard Albricht's voice. Thanks to the Twelve he was still there. Judging by the sounds he was busy again with his backpack. A moment later he had managed to light the torch anew.

"Quick!" he shouted and pushed ahead. I followed as fast as I could.

And that was it. We reached the end of the bridge without further incident. We both dropped into the grass instantly, breathing rapidly, overwhelmed by the pure joy that we had made it. The sky stayed dark and the wind was nothing more than a breeze now, just like before. But the fact that we might have barely escaped with our lives was soon forgotten. There was a simple reason for that.

"Did you see the tower?" Albricht asked excitedly.

Yes, a tower. That's what I must have seen, I was sure of it now. I nodded. And at the same time goosebumps spread all over my body in anticipation of what we might find there.

"This is not an illusion like those other things, it's right there!"

"Yes, I see..." My eyes were following Albricht's swaying of his torch. It revealed remnants of columns to our left and right and barely recognizable overgrown stairs just a few steps away leading up. Not too far away in the distance I could make out a column that was still standing, clearly as part of an entire wall, supporting a partly ruined structure: Yes, the tower!

"Indeed... We've arrived!" Albricht said, putting into words what we both sensed. We both felt elated - we've reached the end of our journey...

Albricht got up first. Torch in hand he moved straight on towards the ruins, and I followed.

Something felt strange, though. The broken columns we found lying around us didn’t seem to follow a recognizable path. Rather they lay haphazardly here and there, dispersed, as if catapulted in all directions due by force that once caused them to scatter. Huge pieces of the tower's once proud battlements now formed block-shaped grassy hills, quite a bit away from the main structure itself. When we approached the tower we saw that even the walls had large, irregular holes in them. Some of the walls looked literally torn apart.

When we reached what was left of the tower there were no stairs to be found, no portal anymore, no rooms left inside. There was only rubble surrounding the building's perimeter and parts of still erect walls pointing skywards. After a climb over a pile of debris we could at least see what was there, waiting for us within the former tower's broken walls...

At the center of the tower's ring - the moonlight shone on it idyllicly - seven throne-like stone chairs were placed in a semi-circle. They were facing us like monuments of times past, surrounded by a couple of cold braziers. The area around the center was empty for some reason, entirely untouched by the destruction.

Albricht didn't hesitate an instant. "Let's go down there!" he shouted and slid down the rubble on the other side.

I for my part looked for a safer passage to descend the debris. As I did, I caught something out of the corner of my eye: a glimmer, an unusual sparkle. Curious and in hopes that I might have discovered something of value hidden there between pieces of rubble I stooped and tried to uncover it.

But I soon ceased my efforts as I found myself looking at my own reflection. It was just a broken mirror. Nothing unusual to find among these ruins, or so I thought, but as I wanted to move on, the figure in the piece of mirror suddenly stirred. Then so did I. I recoiled in shock as if I'd seen a ghost, tripped, lost my balance and fell backwards.

Then everything changed. There was a roaring thunder, the earth trembled, a blinding light.

When I looked up I was lying next to Albricht's feet. Everything around me was brightly illuminated and I smelled oil and incense burning. I realized that all the braziers had been lit as if by magic, and they threw their light on the stone chairs next to them.

"Dust yourself off, and be polite, Myrem!" I heard Albricht say as he extended a hand to me so that I could up. "We've got company!" He was grinning over his whole face.

I looked around to see what he meant, but there was nobody there. And then I finally realized and I was overcome by a hair-raising unease:

A skeleton was sitting in the stone chair next to me, another one in the adjacent one, and so on all the way through. Each of the seven chairs in front of me was occupied with fleshless bones, some of them held their skulls in mockery on their hands or struck poses, as if they were macabre string puppets and someone had had some fun with them.

Albricht laughed out aloud. "Looks like the place has some magic tricks to offer... But nothing to fear from those here! After all they're dead as stone..." he declared. "But this one... This one got something on it..."

He approached the skeleton on the central chair and pointed at a large ring around one of his bone fingers.

"Excuse me, but I'll have to relieve you of this one..." Albricht said and pulled the ring from the bone. "You know, this is just what a treasure hunter needs in order to gain fame and glory!"

"Indeed it is... visitor!"

A deep, hollow, bone-chilling voice suddenly crept out of nowhere, and it rang loud and menacingly through the ruins of the fallen tower. It echoed again and again, and with it the earth began to tremble and the sky to rumble.

The skeleton's bony arm suddenly darted out and seized Albricht's wrist with a firm grip - and then the dead bones began to transform...


Part IV

Thunder was rolling. Waves of lightning flashed the scene.

With each of the flashes the skeleton changed, once turning transparent, then solid again, constantly it was shifting, and at some point it was no recognizable skeleton anymore. Yet instead of advancing its decay the flashes seemed to reverse the process. The brittle bones were more and more replaced by a rotted carcass all the while holding on to Albricht, who stared unmovingly at the chair, as if petrified.

Lightning struck, again and again and again. With it all our surroundings changed for the time of the flashes: I found myself in a study, the tower around me appeared intact once again, complete with fireplace and tomes piling up on a desk. A crystal ball was sitting on it, fog swirled around a basin from which it emanated and an amulet placed near it was glowing, constantly pulsating. But this was only one image I could clearly pick out, and there were many more. Visions succeeded each other so quickly that they came and went, often faster than I could perceive them. But with the visions everything changed: The study, the books, the furniture.

Only when the lightnings paused everything else was subdued for moments. Briefly the present reality resurfaced with Albricht and the skeleton surrounded by the chairs. But the image soon drowned again in another series of flashes.

Lightning struck, again and again and again. I even saw people and creatures walking, an imp flying, someone conjuring up a bright light, a bright light that grew and grew until it engulfed its creator and swept away the study as if it were a mere illusion.

Thunder was rolling incessantly. Lightnings followed without interruption. Weird images kept on appearing in quick succession, but their constant flow now showed a study that had turned into ruins. Strangers were climbing over the debris, coming and disappearing, and eventually it all led up to that last image: Those seven chairs emerging out of nothingness to find their places. They ended up just where we had found them when we had entered ther tower’s ruins. I saw each of them being occupied with a skeleton one after the other, but all the while Albricht was already standing transfixed at the central chair. He was still being held in a tight grip as the only constant in midst of an ever changing whirlpool of images.

Thunder and lightning, then a trusted figure entered the visions. I cried out, but in vain: There was the image of Albricht himself now, who came down the ruins to join his own the image already standing there...

When it happened thunder stopped rolling. Lightning ceased. There was a loud, violent, bloodcurdling bang.

As if awakened from a dream I found myself still amidst the ruins, a speechless observer, staring at Albricht and the chair in front of him. A young man was sitting there now, no less than twenty cycles maybe. He was clad in bedraggled clothing, but all flesh and bones, and he was very much alive. A broad smile danced over his lips as he let go of Albricht’s wrist.

Once released, Albricht backed off instantly.

“Who are you? What is happening here?” The ring he had pulled from the stranger’s finger dropped with a jingle to the floor and disappeared in a crack.

The man sitting in the chair broke out in uncontrollable laughter. It was only then that I noticed that he actually was no more than a youth.

“What is it with you?” Albricht demanded and pulled out his sword.

“Ah, wouldn’t we all want to know?” the stranger’s amusement faded, but it appeared that it was more from annoyance than from being threatened. “Please be welcome to my humble abode, the king’s castle so to speak! His majesty, the royal wife, our court magician and the jester all gathered here in personal union greet you. It is our distinguished honour to receive you, oh hero on your quest for immortality, and an even larger one to grant you your so desired wish.” He stood up, bowed and took his seat again.

“You’re talking in riddles,” Albricht said. “Make yourself clear or I’ll drive my steel through you!”

“Hmmm... I see where you’re coming from. But there wouldn’t be much of a point in doing that, really,” the stranger answered. “Unless for entertainment purposes of course. The jester in us rejoices. You see – there’s something you might have noticed already, but in case not - I’m happy to remind you: I’m quite dead already. Or not, depending on how you look at it, I give you that. Right now you seem to look at it the other way or you wouldn’t make such an awefully foolish remark. But rest assured: You’ve already killed me, and I’m quite thankful for that. Blessed be thy soul, dear adventurer, I’m indeed eternally grateful that you’ve finally arrived.” Once again he stood up, just to bow briefly.

“All I hear is hogwash, stranger. Wizard, king or jester, it doesn’t matter to me. Explain yourself or I’ll let my weapon make your ramblings come true!”

“Very well, my dear impatient saviour, I guess you have earned the right to know,” the youth sighed. He got up. “Excuse me, but I’m not used to talking - only to myself, and quite often I have an idea what I’m going to say anyway. But so be it, let’s hear some truth then before I have to abdicate...”

“Actually...” he began while picking up a skull from a chair next to him. “Actually, I was just an adventurer like you, believe it or not. A young fellow in his prime. Lured to this place by the grand stories they tell about it. Say... how precisely did you describe it when you grabbed that ring? For ‘fame and glory’ if I remember correctly? Ah yes, that sounded like myself... A long, long time ago. Maybe two centuries or so, but how would I know?” He made a gesture with his hand and as he did so, the sky reacted with a muted rambling. I had kept my distance from the stranger until then and as I noticed that somehow he could control the skies I backed off even more.

“I found a man here in these ruins,” he continued. “Maybe it was even this one.” He presented us the skull he had just picked up. “I didn’t understand a thing he was saying to me back then, all I remember is that he told me that he was about to die. And for some strange reason he had accepted it already. But well, he couldn’t be helped anyway, and so he indeed died a short while after I had found him. I didn’t bother that much, really. Who cares for dead adventurers in the middle of nowhere? Treasure was on my mind, and so I took everything I could find and headed off. But if it only were that easy.” The lighter tone in his voice had completely ceased now. It was almost as if another man was speaking. “I was doomed.”

Albricht had lowered his weapon in the meantime. “What do you mean?” he asked. “Two centuries ago? Doomed? How? Why?”

“Ah, I had seen strange things happening when I entered this place. I was afraid but brave and ready to give my life – either it’s death or glory for me and nothing in between. Or so I thought. Life and death, what a bittersweet relation...” He sighed again. “I gather you’ve seen strange things happening here in the swamps too?”

“Well, yes, so we did,” Albricht replied. “Thunder and lightning. Wisps. Towns appearing out of nowhere and then disappearing again. And the whole spectacle you’ve arranged for us here, whatever it’s supposed to be.”

“I... I’ve seen my reflection move just before I actually did in a piece of looking glass over there...” I added.

The stranger grinned.

“Is it enchanted?” I asked. “An artifact of the famous wizard who once lived here? You aren’t that wizard, aren’t you?”

The stranger shook his head. “No, as I said, I was an adventurer like you. And it’s not the mirror, it is the place that is cursed.” He picked up a shard of mirror lying on the floor closeby, looked into it and turned his back to us, so that we could see what he saw. To my horror the shard didn’t reflect me at all this time and the stranger’s hair was snow-white in it. Wrinkles covered his entire face.

“It has begun.... I won’t last long anymore now...” he said and threw the mirror to the floor where it shattered to pieces. The stranger turned around, and while his face was still young now that I looked at it I noticed that it had clearly aged by years in the meantime.

“I’ve been doomed, my friends, since that fateful day. I cannot leave these swamps anymore. Every time I try, I wake up again here in this tower or what still remains of it, in this very chair. I wake up as if stirred from a bad dream, but it is not a dream. I’ve done this years over years over years. Again and again and again.”

“But...” I interjected. “How could you possibly live that long?”

The stranger looked around. “I’ve had time to find out,” he then said. “I dug up books, notes, even a diary that magician wrote who once had built this tower. And I’ve learned to live with the gift I had gained.” He sighed, looking forlornly into the skull’s lifeless eye sockets. “One thing I know for sure: The wizard’s goal was immortality, to live forever, nothing less, and he tried to move heaven and earth to make it happen. Eventually he cast that ultimate spell he had been working on for years, here in this tower. But the spell ripped not only the tower asunder, it also ripped through the whole swamps, creating an unholy perversion of existence itself. He was standing in its very center, and everything around him was being sucked into the maelstrom that stopped and reversed the flow of time as we know it, only to make his selfish ambition real. Fame and glory, fame and glory...”

He coughed and paused, then moved to his chair to sit down again. Thunder accompanied every of his steps. Another lightning struck and I saw a skeleton for a moment instead of the stranger in front of me, but in the next instance he was still standing there, alive. His hair had turned grey however and he had difficulties to walk.

“My limbs are frail already, but I will continue as long as I can...” he went on. “Suffice to say, the wizard had succeeded in his quest. He had done the impossible and had tricked Queprur’s sickle. But in doing so, he had destroyed his connection to the world as he knew it, and himself. As he was dead and alive at the same time, and the world he now lived in, was a world transcending time and space, bereft of what we know as becoming and passing, thriving and decaying, living and dying. It is that world you now have entered... That world where you see past and future as if it all happens right now, that, my friends, is Aeyshwyn's Mire.”

The stranger coughed once more. He leaned back and closed his eyes, in a way he resembled the skeletons sitting next to him already. His cheeks appeared cavernous now, more and more wrinkles had formed around his forehead.

“Here, inside the ruins of the tower you are at the birthplace of it all, its core and heart. However, it is a world made only for one. Around it, everything else revolves, feeds the one in its center. Everything else has to die.”

At first I couldn’t say a word, seeing that the person who had been a youth just a while ago had turned into an old man, and he kept deteriorating with every word he spoke.

“But...” I finally managed to say. “But I still don’t understand... What happened to the wizard? And why are you dying?”

The stranger’s gaze was almost lifeless. Then he pointed to the first skeleton in the semi-circle of chairs: “The wizard sits right there. He is dead a long time now. As far as I can tell he lived for ages, but he eventually must have realized that the price he had paid for his immortality was not what he had bargained for. And he finally found a way to escape his fate.”

Albricht and I gazed at the bones on the first chair. In a strange way they seemed to be in peace now. “What about those other skeletons?” Albricht wanted to know.

“These...” the stranger continued with a hoarse voice, “...are his successors. Fools first, then kings of the ruins. One after the other. All of them have traded a life for immortality.” After a long paused he added: “And so have I.”

The last words the stranger had uttered were nothing more than breaths formed into words. His hair was snow-white by now and through the skin on his head the bones were now clearly shining through.

“Go now...” he whispered. “This is a place of death. Anyone except the doomed one will die within hours and you’ve stayed far too long here already. You might still make it. Remember, time is not what it is supposed to be here. But thanks to the Twelve the time for me has finally arrived...” With a last effort he lifted his head towards us. “Fare well, and... forgive me...”

A loud, violent, bloodcurdling bang sealed the stranger’s last words - and his life.

The sky was ablaze with lightning one more time. The earth shook vehemently and a strong wind instantly doused the fires in the braziers. Quiet settled again. The moonlight retook its reign and shone down idyllicly on the seven throne-like stone chairs in front of us - seven chairs with seven skeletons on them.




Part V

I hestitated what to do next. Everything in front of us seemed unchanged since we had arrived, and yet it all was different: the stone chairs, the skeletons, the ruins, the moonlight, even we did, now that the stranger had revealed to us that we were in mortal danger if we only decided to stay.

"Maybe he is right... we probably should go," Albricht finally produced. "We better hurry." He climbed back over what was still left of the crumbled tower, not even bothering about the ring he had initially tried to wrestle from the skeleton.

I followed wordlessly, but once when we were outside of the tower’s perimeter I wondered aloud: "We don't search for some treasure before we leave?"

"Do you choose life over treasure?" Albricht retorted sternly.

 "You think he spoke the truth?"

"What reason would he have to lie?"

"I don’t know... - But did you understand everything he was saying? Why was he thanking us when he awoke? Why did he die now when he claimed that he had lived for centuries? And how did the wizard die in the first place? That madman's story is still full of riddles!"

Albricht was quiet, but he appeared tense. Lost in thought he just stared in the distance. Then his eyes caught something and he pointed somewhere. "Myrem... Look!"

I turned around and noticed a light source quite a distance away. It could have been a campfire, probably on the other side of the canyon, but I wasn't quite sure. "More adventurers? Can it be?" I heard myself ask in disbelief, shaking my head. "And they told us back in the village that not a soul dares to venture in this area nowadays!"

"Myrem..." Albricht suddenly said. "Those braziers in the tower ruins... Do you think one could see them from over there if they were lit?"

"What...?" I looked dumbfounded, surprised by the unexpectedness of his question. "Why would you want to know? You don’t intend to signal them, do you?"

"No, I wouldn’t," Albricht answered, but instead of explaining he just went on. "But would you recognize the braziers from over the bridge as such? Or could they be taken for a campfire as well?"

"I... I suppose that could be. It’s pretty far off anyway. We can’t clearly see what’s over there, so why should they see what’s over here? But why in the Thirteenth’s unspeakable name is this of any importance at all?" I demanded and the tone in my voice got more irritated. "What should we do now? How could we ever make it back without running into these guys over there?"

"There!" Albricht said, his eyes still fixed on the other side of the canyon.

"What...?" I tried to locate the light source again, but couldn’t anymore. It was suddenly gone. Apparently its disappearance was what Albricht wanted to point out.

"Looks familiar, right?"

Before I could reply Albricht had pulled a torch out of his backpack. He lit it and headed towards the bridge undeterred. As so often in the passed days, I hesitated.

"Albricht!" I shouted, but he was already gone. I observed his flickering torch moving on to the bridge. Albricht crossed it with a fast pace, oblivious of possible enemies ahead. I found myself running after him, if only not be left behind...

A flash, a yell, a fierce gust of wind.

Lightning ripped the night. It came out of nowhere, its fine illuminated cracks spreading like veins from one end of the sky to the other. For a moment everything was bathed in white again: the precipice, the rope bridge, Albricht in the middle of it, figures on the other side... Yes, there were also figures over there, I could make them out now, two men...

But it was all over once the flash faded, gone as suddenly as it had appeared. Peace and quiet settled, only the creaking and groaning of the bridge kept us company.

Albricht was still there, on the bridge, illuminated by the moonlight. He was standing somewhere halfway through, holding on to the rope railing, even though his torch didn’t bear a flame anymore. He must have seen the strangers on the other side, just as I did, but nevertheless he rekindled the torch instantly and moved on unflinchingly towards them.

Eventually he reached the other side.

Nothing happened.

I had drawn my dagger already a while ago, but only now I dared to proceed.

"Where are they hiding?" I wanted to know as soon as I arrived at the other side.

"We must hurry, Myrem... It’s just as the stranger said! Can’t you see?" Albricht spoke calmly, but when I looked at his face in the torchlight it seemed changed all of a sudden, pale and serene, as if struck by an undeniable truth. "Haven’t you listened to the stranger? Didn’t he tell us that we will die if we don’t head out now? That this wizardly fool dabbled with the Gods’ creation, that we only exist on borrowed time in these swamps? Time is not anymore what it is supposed to be here, Myrem... - Just open your eyes!"

Everything dawned on me then. I remembered my own image in the mirror shard stirring before I did... There was that snow-white hair reflection of the stranger when he looked into it... They were both fragments of what was supposed to happen... And then there was the bridge that we had crossed now twice, lured and guided by a light that eventually led us over the canyon, only to find out that nobody was waiting on the other side.

"Things are not right..." Albricht said. "There's no way denying that the stranger spoke the truth. Time is not what it is supposed to be here! Myrem, we must have seen things from two different sides here at the canyon - once we looked forward, once back in time. And in between we were caught, fooled by ourselves, as part of a gigantic warped looking glass, just as you've seen it in the tower."

I nodded. I was now convinced. "Yes, you are right, Albricht - we must get out of here! Magic is at work, the swamp draws from us, uses us as pawns against ourselves. One thing is for sure: The stranger was right, we aren't safe here..."

The decision was made. We didn't tarry another moment and moved on quickly, despite we were weary and tired. Albricht lit the way down the hill we had come up only hours ago, and soon the makeshift dock came in sight with our boat still moored there.

The journey back was long and arduous. It must have lasted hours upon hours, but while I was at the brink of exhaustion more than once, Albricht seemed to have found new strengths I hadn't noticed before in him. We made several rests, but unrelentingly kept pushing the oars on and on as soon as we could manage to continue, if only for another while.

Our long forgotten companion, the mist, returned, its wafts crept eerily over the waters. Once lightning struck I felt enormous relief somehow. Silhouettes of buildings stretched over the horizon the way we had seen it when we had arrived, and now it was as if saying good-bye to them. I sensed that we were moving away from the heart of the swamp, away from the uncertainty of its curse, that the swamp's magic was still there, but with each oar stroke it more and more lost its grip.

The flashes continued for a while in the pattern we had already gotten used to, then everything turned quiet. Wisps emerged as if by command, the silent, constantly moving observers gathering in the distance, never interferring, but now they almost appeared like dancing balloons celebrating our escape. Twilight eventually replaced the darkness, finally the day returned in its dreary greyness, taking the wisps with them. We found ourselves in misty, but calm waters and even some trees looked familiar.

"We've made it, Albricht," I declared triumphantly, already noticing a glimpse of sunlight breaking through the clouds. "We're out of the swamps!"

"Not yet, Myrem, still a distance to go..." Albricht's lips barely moved. Weak and beaten he let go of the oars for a moment and sank back on his seat. His whole body was marked by the strain he had been under for hours, then his eyes rolled back and he just lay there unmovingly.

"Albricht!" Worried I got up and squatted next to my exhausted friend.

"Stay away!" He suddenly hissed agitatedly and pulled himself up without my help. "Continue rowing! Don't you stop!"

"Keep calm, Albricht! Keep calm!" I backed off and obeyed his command, but I have to admit that I barely recognized him anymore at this point.

Eyes wide open he stared at me like he had never seen my face before and I was about to rob him. His furrowed brow, the grinded teeth, the grim determination in his look made it clear that he wasn't joking. A shiver took hold of his body and made him sink back again.

"Just a bit further," he whispered clearly in pain. "Soon it will all be over, trust me. Then you're safe, Myrem. Then you're finally safe," he repeated and nodded to himself in satisfaction.

"We'll both be safe, Albricht," I answered and kept on rowing the boat alone.

"I won't be, Myrem." My long time companion looked up, his eyes were empty. "I'm sorry, but you'll have to head home alone. Forgive me that I dragged you into this. But I'll get you out safely, even if it's the last thing I do."

"You're talking nonsense. You almost sound just like the madman from the tower," I said. "Quit it and let me finish this. Just hold on, you're not dying!"

Albricht's glassy stare almost made him look like a statue, but he still was able to speak: "No, I'm not dying now, Myrem, quite the contrary. Believe me, this is not my time and place. I know exactly when I'll die, many, many years from now. I know it with every beat of my heart, just like I know the swamp, this cursed swamp, which has become a part of me, and I of it. This is now my home."

"What are you talking about, Albricht?" I could hardly conceal my horror.

"'I've realized the wizard's secret, Myrem. I understand how he died and why the stranger at the tower finally got relieved and managed to end it himself." Albricht made an effort to pull himself up, but failed. Again he guestured not to move any closer. "Don't approach me, Myrem, just listen: All the dark magical power that keeps the doomed one alive is focused in that person, in that one person only. He needs another one to take his place, another one he'll have to condemn by trading his own immortality for death."

"But... How..." I struggled for words.

"Myrem," Albricht whispered. "Myrem... I've been chosen... He... touched... me..."

At that very moment I heard an unmistakable sound. It was the sound of a pair of oars hitting the water nearby.

"Ho, travellers!" I heard someone shouting out.

I looked up. The rowing stopped and from the wafts of mist emerged a boat with someone waving his hat in my direction.

"Where are you going? What are you running from?" he continued shouting and I almost petrified on the spot. I averted my eyes, looked right ahead.

"Turn around, I beg you!" I shouted back, trembling. "Turn around before it's too late! Turn around! Leave this place..."

But already at the moment I uttered the words, I knew that they would be in vain. All the time the boat was still in sight I kept on rowing incessantly, as if running away from something. But it was even too late for that now. It would always be too late.

One last time I looked up and caught a brief glance of Albricht. There he was, rowing on the stern side of the other boat, the boat, which I now saw heading towards its inevitable doom.

Then I turned back to the seat in front of me. It was empty.
« Last Edit: 16 January 2013, 04:39:23 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



"Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a mediator, and this must be the heart." -- Maria (Metropolis)
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« Reply #1 on: 04 December 2012, 05:37:31 »

Ok guys, here are the first three pages of my latest story. Probably two more instalments are still to come. Hope you have time to and leisure to read it and like it so far. cool And can't guess the ending before I've written it... :P
« Last Edit: 04 December 2012, 05:39:45 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



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« Reply #2 on: 11 December 2012, 05:26:22 »

Part II of the story was now added, 3 1/2 more pages leading deeper into the mystery... The first part by the way was also once more polished and should read a bit better now. Hopefully some awkward expressions a certain non-native speaker threw in have been fixed as well. But the content wasn't really changed. The character's name is now mentioned in the first sentence though, as it's easier to establish that way when it comes into play later in some dialogue.

A note: I've expanded the estimated length of the story to 5 parts now which seems quite plausible considering the current pace. However, part 3 will be intentionally shorter and just a transitional part leading up to the very juicy part 4, followed by the denouement of part 5. Looks like I'm talking to myself, but then again, I'm a good listener :)

P.S. The owls are not what they seem :D
« Last Edit: 11 December 2012, 05:30:33 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



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« Reply #3 on: 13 December 2012, 07:55:57 »

No, no, I'm reading, just too tired to write something useful.

I think I liked the first beginning better, without the name. Maybe you can add it at another point? I did not miss it.

What I like: your language, good to read

What disturbs me: Maybe it is the wrong time in the year for this story or I'm just too tired from the family/christmas buisiness, but I think when I would have come across the story as just a story from anybody, I would not have continued reading it. Though, as I said, I love how you set the words, it was a bit *zäh*. I can't say, what I woudl change, not now. Maybe after Christmas when the story is finished.

I'll hide the next text, a guess where it heads to..

This boat they met with the man/men? trying to escape the swamp - it is himself and this is a timetwisting story, as the town hints already at?
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« Reply #4 on: 14 December 2012, 04:48:41 »

Well, I think mentioning the name up front is somewhat important. Feels weird to have it somewhere on the end of page two or something when the first dialogue comes up. Besides, the second sentence wouldn't be very helpful without it.

Concerning your guess (hidden text below):
You're of course spot on, Talia! Probably I shouldn't have mentioned guessing the ending - or I dropped too many hints, or my stories get too predictable. I tend to use similar themes, that's for sure, often with existential overtones and it looks like that as well here. This one's mainly fantasy adventure, even tough I play a bit with expectations. Anyway, now you can just connect the dots to figure out what happens in between, then I don't need to write the rest...

:)
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« Reply #5 on: 14 December 2012, 14:43:10 »

Quote
"What do you make of it it?" I inquired.

Repeated word.  :)

Looks good, Arti.   thumbup  Will be waiting for the next installment.  This slow down is definitely good for your creativity.
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« Reply #6 on: 18 December 2012, 04:59:22 »

Thanks for the fix, Alt... I enjoy writing stories piece by piece, helps to move forward to focus on bit parts and get things done one after the other. :)

That said: Here's the next part... Of course longer than intended, about 3 Word pages, and now things move towards the interesting part. Hope you enjoy!  cool
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« Reply #7 on: 18 December 2012, 23:30:01 »

Reading this, constructing a post at the same time so I don't miss things the moment I spot them (as I usually do when I wait with the post until after the read-through)

Part I:
Quote
Only that: Then it all began - that, what never should have.
This sentence doesn't really make a lot of sense - I think I understand what you are trying to say, but it's not easy :)
Perhaps: Only that all began then, which should not have happened at all.
Though of course I'm not native English either so that might not be a lot clearer...

Quote
While it was approaching, it was still quite a distance away, but eventually I thought that I could make out two people sitting in it, rowing with full force in the direction we've been coming from. Other treasure hunters maybe, I thought by myself, but whether they had been successful or not, they were clearly in a hurry to get out. Yet it appeared that they didn't notice us at all, or didn't want to notice us, going straight passed!
Your story is in the past, so "the direction we had been coming from", not we have. Also, to make it entirely clear what you mean, I'd add "back in the direction", at first I interpreted it as though the second boat followed the same course as the first one, rather than exactly opposite.
Also, "I thought to myself" , not by myself
Also, "past", not passed

Quote
And that was the point when Albricht and I looked at each other bewildered due to the strangeness of the whole situation.
"each other, bewildered by" I don't feel that the person telling this story would really use a construction such as "due to", especially in the midst of the telling.

(Note: I'm switching tactics, I'm taking this one paragraph at a time now. I hope you don't mind my nitpicking, I'm really just trying to help!)

Quote
"Ho, travellers!" I shouted out aloud, quit rowing and waved with my hat. I couldn't help it and needed to get it off my chest: "Where are you going? What are you running from?" But already at the very moment I finished, I saw that there was actually only a single person sitting in the boat when it emerged from a waft of mist. The man was rowing incessantly and at first didn't bother to look over to us.

Shouting something is, by definition, aloud. Also, the second part seems a bit tacked on... Either make that into a separate sentence or really integrate it into the first, such as "stopping my rowing and waving my hat."
The second sentence seems sort of... odd. Try to avoid redundancy, I'd say. You're sitting in a boat in a spooky area, by all accounts haunted, and you see people fleeing the scene... Of course you want to know what's going on, that's quite a logical question, so there's no need to tell the readers that you wanted to know this. There's no problem with just deleting the whole first part and just continuing to speak after waving your hat.
"didn't bother" seems too nonchalant for the situation. I'd say "and at first did not even look over at us".

Quote
Finally there was a reaction on the other side: "Turn around, I beg you!" the shout came back. But there was no slow-down of oar strokes to perceive. The stranger's voice was clearly trembling. It sounded scared and insecure, but the message it bore left no doubts. "Turn around before it's too late!" it repeated. But within moments the passing boat was engulfed again by mist and with its disappearance the last spoken words slowly drowned in the distance: "Turn around! Leave this place..."

Is there a "side" to things here? I'd say "a reaction from the other boat" (not on).
"came back, though there..." "to be perceived"

Quote
Only the two of us remained, mouth agape. I found myself still hunched over the side of the boat, eyes fixed on the spot in the haze where that fleeting apparition had just gone by and from where soon afterwards not another sound could be heard. As if the cryptic stranger had never been there in the first place. I turned around and looked at my companion with questions all over my face.
I wouldn't say "soon afterwards". From how I interpet it, no sounds can be heard at this moment already, right? So no problem with "from where not another sound"

Quote
But Albricht was just sitting there, shrugged and kept on rowing silently. And after a while I gave up as well, put my hat back on my head and I joined in. In a way I think, the warning of the stranger had quite the opposite effect on us than he intended: It only strengthened our resolve to continue on, and so we did. It's odd, but true, now that I think of it, and my hair stands on end when I do.
The first sentence doesn't really know what it wants to say. Is Albricht sitting or rowing? "just sitting there" implies a static moment, "rowing" implies movement. My suggestion: "But Albricht just sat there for a moment longer, then shrugged and went on rowing."
Second sentence: no need for the "and".
"opposite effect from the one he intended"

Quote
However, this encounter wouldn't remain the only mystery we experienced when we got closer to the center of the swamp. The further we travelled, the eerier the place became. In the middle of the day a greyness, followed by a twilight, then a dreary darkness quickly descended upon us. The air was still hot and humid, but in a way everything was filled with a mix of otherwordly aura that slowly bled through the despair and hopelessness of the swamp. The darker it got, the more the water seemed to glitter and gleam bizarrely, almost as if we were moving through a dream, and sometimes I imagined that I might awake every moment. But I didn't. The wafts of mist got thicker and thicker, to a degree that we had difficulties to manoeuvre. There was always a fear that we might hit land or driftwood and make acquaintance with the mud first hand.
Suggestion: "encounter was not the only ... as we got"
At the end there, you make it sound almost as if the mist is solid, I don't think that's what you're trying to convey. Suggestion: The wafts of mist got thicker and thicker, slowing us down considerably. There was always the fear..."

**Reading on now, will continue this evening if you still want me to :)**
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« Reply #8 on: 19 December 2012, 00:23:00 »

Sure, I'd be happy if you can continue checking the story, Irid :) Always great to have someone around fixing my blunders... So yup, always welcome - and an aura +1 for the effort!
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« Reply #9 on: 19 December 2012, 04:28:12 »

[...]
At some point in the distance we then began to see wisps dancing. Wisps, you know, those gently floating orbs of light nobody has ever been able to explain. Does anyone talk like this? Perhaps: You know wisps those floating balls of light. But they are harmless beings as far as is known as far as I know, well, and they gathered around us, swirling and twirling to and fro. First they appeared right ahead, then they suddenly showed up behind us and finally on all sides, as if they were forming a circle. Maybe they were laying out building? a trap I thought, and I contemplated whether a sword might have any effect on magical beings like those. You know, just in case they were in fact of evil nature, despite all the common belief that tells us otherwise. What are the Erpheronians thinking, I mused: How can steel ever beat magic? I don't understand this sentence. For a moment I thought I was in the wrong place. Or this one. Then again, maybe the wisps just preferred wanted? to watch us. After all they didn't get closer and stayed where they were, adding merely a solumn touch to our ongoing procession process? progress? I don't think procession is the correct word here. into no man's land. If that were all, so be it. all, I could live with that.?

The heavy rain came suddenly and somewhat unexpectedly. We were still too much immersed in taking in the astonishingly outlandish scenery astounding sight? It's dark, so I'd imagine you don't really see a lot of the scenery, so that the loud rolling thunder brutally jolted us out of our quiet fascination. It didn't last long Before long?until we were soaking wet. From time to time flashes of lightning bathed the swamp in blinding white for an instance, then the storm plunged us back into utter darkness again. Albricht and I were busy for a while to get accustomed to the situation, but there was really nothing we could do, except pulling our hats over the ears - well, and hoping that the worst would soon be over. How does getting used to pouring rain keep you 'busy'? perhaps you "needed a while"?

You might want to play with the order of things a bit in this paragraph. First you talk about rain, then thunder which surprises you, then rain again. It sounds as if you didn't really notice the rain until it started thundering, which would seem a bit odd - I'd imagine pouring rain would be hard to ignore.


However, more than just the weather had changed. There was something different about the circling wisps far off. When lightning struck and a flash painted everything in bright light the wisps seemed to disappear completely for a few moments - but once darkness reigned again they were very much alive, circling, swirling and twirling as if nothing had happened. Another flash of light, another one - and the same thing happened over and over again. I still starred at the wisps when I felt Albricht's elbow hit my side.

"There... Can you see it?" he suddenly whispered and pointed somewhere into the darkness. I followed his finger with my eyes, assuming he spoke about the weirdly behaving wisps as well, but all I could make out was a small island with a couple of trees. In front of it lay a giant redwood, brought down by the elements, halfway submerged by the swamp waters. It didn't strike me as anything special, so I shrugged it off at first, and looked questioningly back at Albricht. But then lightning flashed our surroundings again.

And I saw it: For the blink of an eye a building was there right in front of us. No, not just a building, it was a whole palace! More than a dozen of bulbous spires were towering above the swamp, a huge gate was clearly visible in the center of a massive wall, lots of banners blowing in the wind hanging from the windows. And the redwood in front of it at which I had just looked... was gone!

Pay attention to the order in which things happen again - if you are looking at Albricht, you're probably not looking at the island, so you wouldn't see the palace in the flash lightning, which usually only lasts for a second or so (if that - if they take longer it might be useful to note this in your story). Perhaps you almost look back at Albricht, or you want to look back, when the flash hits?

I was taken aback from by the unexpected sight and nearly caused our boat to capsize when I lost my grip. What were you holding that losing your grip in it causes the boat to rock?

[...]

A couple more paragraphs, more to follow :) Please take my comments as suggestions only :)
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« Reply #10 on: 20 December 2012, 01:19:36 »


[...]
"It's... it's..." My eyes were still busy taking it all in.You're fond of being busy, aren't you ;) Not really a problem here, but my suggestion would be "My eyes were having trouble taking it all in" "It's a whole town..." I finally shouted as I noticed further man made structures in the background. I looked left and right, and there were buildings everywhere. A market place, an inn, a small turret... Then darkness again, several long moments... Only to be followed once more by repeated flashes of lightning. With them the outlines of a whole city you already said it was a town, so no need for the indefinite article. Suggestion: "the whole outline of the city". Also, this lightning is behaving rather bizarrely, isn't it :) came into view, strike by strike... There! I saw a rider entering the main gate, guards walking on the battlements with torches ablaze, a carriage was travelling over a hill to the east that clearly I'm not sure how something can 'clearly' NOT be somewhere. Suggestion: "that I was sure hadn't been there" hadn't been there before... Don't overuse the ellipses. I count 7 just in this paragraph. Moment for moment this intangible sight was revealed to us only to be buried covered? again and again by night. Wherever it came from, whatever it represented, illusion or reality, dream or vision, my eyes were awestruck again and again and just couldn't let go of what presented itself to them. My heart raced wildly, spurred by the irregular pulse of the storm and its unlikely revelations.

Until that loud, violent, bloodcurdling bang.

The bang that brought rain, lightning and the darkness that had engulfed us to an instant end. Split sentence. Suggestion: The bang that brought an abrupt end to rain, lightning (etc)"It was as if a titan had? hit a skywide drum, with the echo reverberating throughout the swamp, sending jittering waves over the thick greenish-brown waters. The sound's force was so enormous so that we had to hold on to our tiny boat, only barely escaping a wet fate.

But then, within the blink of an eye, when the bang had trailed off, it was all over. Everything fell silent. The turbulence that had gripped the world around us had come to a standstill.

It's a bang. I'm having trouble imagining how it would 'trail off'.

We found ourselves sitting in the boat, drifting somewhere in the middle of the notorious Aeyshwyn's Mire - two adventurers, first teased, then surprised, shocked and confused by circumstances they failed to understand. It was as if everything had come apart at the seams, but only as long as to be able to marvel at it and question our perception. Looking out over the waters again now everything was pretty much the same as before. The swamp was steamy, muddy, uninviting as ever. The sky had turned back to grey and wafts of mist began to retake their territory by moving across the bog. And right ahead was that small island Albricht just had had just pointed at: A fallen giant redwood lay in front of it, but there was no sign of a palace anymore, no streets, no flags, no hills and carriage, and least of all a whole town. Suggestion: "but there was no sign of a palace anymore, no streets, flags, hills or carriages, and most certainly no town.


Part II

I looked at Albricht and Albricht looked at me.

"What do you make of it?" I inquired.

"I don't know," Albricht said. "But we've come to find out, didn't we?" Either: "we came to find out, didn't we" or "we've come to find out, haven't we" His eyes glowed with expectation.

I was quiet for a moment, thinking about the phenomenons, then my thoughts drifted off to the stranger we had seen before. He probably had made it even further into the swamp, who knows? But it looked like he was forced to turn around and get away as fast as he could. "Leave this place!" I heard his warning still ringing in my ears. In the face of what we had witnessed, his words sounded more and more sounded like a deadly threat. But I said nothing. Maybe it was because the sound of Albricht's oar dipping into the water had already broken the silence. An instance A moment later we both continued rowing towards our inevitable It's not really inevitable, though, is it? You could just turn around and go back home. Perhaps: "towards whatever lay ahead." fate. "Leave this place..." My mind however wouldn't let it go.

We didn't row for long. At some point the swamp as we used to know it came to a sudden end. You've only just entered the swamp that day for the first time, I don't think "know" is the right word here. I'd just leave out the whole "as we used to know it". Or so it seemed, as either we had come across a huge isle, or somehow we had completely crossed the whole mire, which however was highly unlikely.Suggestion: "which was highly unlikely, to say the least". But as a matter of fact a An entire strip of land lay just ahead of us, with a clearly visible path that led up to a hill climbing high above the haze that covered ground and water. Believe it or not, there was even a makeshift dock at the water's edge right there, awaiting us. Even though I wondered who might have put it there and how long ago such a thing had happened, the fact that it was there was good enough to make us steer towards it.

It was then that I had another sensation I couldn't explain. You know, for a moment it was as if I saw a boat moored already on that dock, I was very sure about it. But when we got there it clearly wasn't. Suggestion: But when we got there, nothing could be seen." See, I put the blame on the fog and the tricks it keeps playing to the eye, and when I kept doubting that it was the fog I said to myself that it was my no less no less than what? clouded state of mind that made me see things. Anyway, Albricht was bent on climbing that hill and see what was on the other side and we didn't lose time. I just wordlessly packed my things as Albricht did and we continued on foot, following the path that lay ahead.

When we arrived at the top of the hill the evening sun had already begun to descend behind our backs, and while we had kept the mist behind, greyness now had utterly reconquered the sky. High grasses and bushes were swaying in the wind on the way up, and the occasional trees on our wayside turned into a whole forest the higher we got. But once on top, there was no view to enjoy as we had hoped, rather the trail wound through dense thicket with no apparent end in sight, and the further we got, the more darkness took over. Along with it came disillusion and weariness. We travelled on for a while, but eventually we stopped and decided to rest in order to continue in the morning fresh and renewed. A campfire was quickly put together, our rations plundered. Then we both succumbed to our exhaustion, too tired to even think about all that what had transpired during this eventful day.



"Myrem! Get up! Myrem!"

When I opened my eyes it was still pitch-black around me, only the campfire was ablaze spreading warmth. I recognized Albricht shaking me vehemently, eventually completely tearing me out of my sleep. His tone was urgent and demanding.

I quickly grabbed my dagger I had hidden under my hat close by. A moment later I was on my knees, ready to strike.

But Albricht just tried to keep me quiet. "Hush..." he commanded. "Don't move." He pushed me away a bit from the fire, then motioned towards something in the distance. "Look! Do you see it?"

My eyes still only slowly adjusted to the darkness, but luckily the night had a full moon, which shed some light on our surroundings.

Indeed, there was something: Another light source was right ahead. Are you still in the thicket you mentioned? Might be worth mentioning that a view of the light source is not only obstructed by the night, but also by trees. It was difficult to judge in the cover of the night, but it appeared to be no less than a hundred peds away. It was no wisp, of that I was sure about either "of that I was sure" or "that I was sure about" immediately, as it was no orb and didn't move around, it looked more like...

"A campfire!" Albricht said. "Someone's out there."

I nodded. The same thing had come to my mind as well.

"What do we do now?"

"Who knows who it is..." Albricht said. "They might be bandits, or treasure hunters like ourselves, and not keen on having company at all. We better be careful."

"What if..." I began, but then something happened that made me stop.

The spot at which we had been staring at, the camp fire - at least that's what we guessed it to be - suddenly vanished. Night took over again, barely illuminated by the moonshine from above.

"Quick, quick... We have to put ours out. Come, toss some earth over it!" Albricht said. He dug with his hands in the dirt and covered the still glowing logs with it. I joined in and soon we had our fire entirely buried. Only the moonlight from above remained as the only light source.

"You think they have seen us? Have they covered their fire as well?" I asked. "Maybe they did it because they've seen ours?"

"I don't know. How would I?" I couldn't see Albricht's expression, but the tone in his voice confirmed that he was as worried as I.

We kept quiet for a while, listening intently. I noticed how Albricht's breath became heavier. Then we heard something in the distance, maybe people moving.

"That's them... We have to assume they saw us," Albricht whispered and I heard him rummaging in his backpack - clearly he was also looking for a weapon to confront possible attackers. Once he had found one, he ordered me to grab our stuff. "We need to move away from here... They might be heading towards us right now."

Sweat dripped from my brow as we left the campfire as quietly as we possibly could. While it was difficult to move in the darkness, we were also cloaked by it. We managed somehow to get quite a bit away from our starting point, but I wasn't too sure whether we actually moved away from our possible opponents or even involuntarily got closer.

"By the Twelve!" Albricht suddenly exclaimed.

"Hush!" I countered him instantly, You can't counter someone :) no problem to just delete the 'him' fearing we might have been heard by the others. But then I realized what had made Albricht stop. Or let's say: Albricht grabbed me, threw me to the ground, kept me from making another step. As at the very moment I tumbled and fell I became aware of it:

Again, the order in which things happen seems a bit strange. It reads like: Exclamation - hush - realisation - tackle, whereas I would expect Exclamation / tackle at approximately the same time, then the hushing, and then the realisation. Suggestion: "...Albricht suddenly exclaimed, grabbing my hand and pulling me back. My instinct was to hush him, fearing the others might have overheard, but then I realised what he had seen."

Or something in that vein, it's your story ;)


Right in front of us, as if arisen out of nowhere, a gigantic canyon opened its maw into nothingness, and every further step would have been our sure demise. A canyon goes down, so 'arisen' is not really a good word here. "appearing" perhaps?

We lay there for a few moments unmovingly on what we now knew was a precipice. Wild thoughts were racing through my head. I was worried that we might have been heard when we hit the ground and that our pursuers drew closer now, weapons drawn, a clear goal in mind - and that we had no way nowhere to go.

"Where are they?" I whispered to Albricht. "Where should we head now?"

"They must be on the other side," Albricht answered calmly. What other side? Of the canyon? How does that work? Was the canyon between you guys and the campfire you first saw? If that's the case, why would Myrem be concerned they might be sneaking up from behind? (at least that is how I interpret his concern)

"You sure?"

He motioned me to follow him, and we kept moving on our knees carefully along the edge of the precipice, step by step in the half-dark, until we made a startling discovery: No less than a few peds away from us a rope bridge led over the canyon. It was quite an unsteady affair as far as we could make out. The creaking and groaning of the ropes holding the boards was clearly audible when the wind shook the whole construction, but otherwise the bridge seemed to be intact.

But that not enough missing a verb, my heartbeat missed a beat when we made another observation: Something flared up out of nowhere, a source of light. It was way ahead of us, then it was replaced by flickering. Clearly the newly created light was now slowly beginning to move towards us.

"They've lit a torch!" I exclaimed, there was no doubt about that.

"Yes..." Albricht agreed. "And they are on the other side of that bridge. If they try to come across we'll be waiting for them right here. We have the advantage now, Myrem! Quick, we have to move..."

We brought us in position at the end of the bridge and watched things proceed, hiding behind the bushes with bated breath.

Yes, someone had indeed entered the bridge! "entered" doesn't seem right with a bridge... Stepped onto maybe? Its creaking and groaning became more intense, the flickering of the torch that at first had seemed to be still quite a distance away, drew nearer and nearer. I gripped the dagger in my hand even tighter and bit my lip in tense anticipation. I was sure that I could already smell the burning resin of the torch. Only a few moments until we would confront them...




Part III

A flash, a yell, a fierce gust of wind.

Lightning ripped the night. It came out of nowhere, its fine illuminated cracks spreading like veins from one end of the sky to the other. For a moment everything was bathed in white again: the precipice, the rope bridge, figures in the middle of it, the (you hadn't introduced any ruins before, so no definite article) gigantic ruins on the other side... Yes, there were ruins that emerged out of the night on the other side of the canyon, several long fingers of broken walls reaching out against the elements in a stance of defiance...

But it was over already once the flash faded. As sudden as it had appeared, as sudden it was all gone. Peace and quiet settled, only the creaking and groaning of the bridge still kept us company. The first and second sentences basically say the say thing. Suggestion: But it was all over once the flash faded, gone as suddenly as it had appeared.

There was no light in sight to be seen?anymore though coming from the bridge.

"The wind must have blown out their torches!" I suggested.

But we waited and waited, and no torch was being rekindled. The silence, only disturbed by the howling of the wind and the sound of the bridge, turned eerier.

"I'm going," Albricht suddenly said resolutely, grabbed his backpack and pulled a torch from it.

"But... They will see you!" I objected stubbornly.

"There's nobody there anymore," Albricht answered. "Let's face it. They must have fallen off the bridge." The howling of the wind, a song of death...

"You can't be sure! And what if it is true... If you cross the bridge the same might happen to you! Who knows whether it's safe at all!"

"Then let's see," Albricht said and entered the bridge without further ado.

"You're mad!" I shouted, but he went anyway.

At first I watched Albricht and his flickering torch depart with unease. Apparently the bridge was robust enough to support him and allowed to proceed fast. But the further he progressed the more I found myself in the dark when his torch moved further and further away.

"Don't tarry, coward! Come!" I heard Albricht's command. He had turned around and waited on me now to catch up.

Frankly, I didn't have much choice. It was too late to make my own decisions now. You don't have a torch of your own to light? So I reluctantly obeyed and followed his example climbing onto the rope bridge.

There was really nothing to it, I thought. While the bridge only offered room for one, I could easily hold on to the ropes on either side which formed a railing, and the ropes were tight and strong. I felt confident. The logs below held our weight with ease and while the wind shook the construction, it wasn't enough to really bother me. And maybe, just maybe, it helped that the night kept us us from seeing down the whole depth of the canyon. Thus we just kept on moving, step by step. A silent prayer was on my lips nevertheless. Soon I had caught up with Albricht.

"See? Nobody there anymore!" Albricht said as we were halfway through. The torchlight showed that the rest of the bridge was clear. I breathed a sigh of relief, but only to be violently interrupted...

A sudden gust of wind knocked me off my feet. Caught unaware I tumbled and fell.

"Albricht!!" I screamed in deadly terror, grabbed whatever rope of the bridge I could hold onto. I hit the logs hard, but quickly pulled myself up.

"I told you!" I yelled against the wind. "I told you!" But the wind swallowed my words so that not even I could hear them.

There was another lightning, a flash that brought the gigantic ruins up ahead back from nothingness into plain view. The silhouettes of the broken building appeared closer than ever before. The closer they appeared, the more menacing they got became: The stone structure which had looked like fingers reaching out before seemed to turn into a claw now. A claw that beckoned us.

Our torch had gone out. Darkness engulfed us, but the wind had ceased.

"Stay calm!" I heard Albricht's voice. Thanks to the Twelve he was still there. Judging by the sounds he was busy again with his backpack. A moment later he had managed to light the torch anew.

"Quick!" he shouted and pushed ahead. I followed as fast as I could.

And that was it. We reached the end of the bridge without further incident. We both dropped into the grass instantly, breathing rapidly, overwhelmed by the pure joy that we had made it. The sky stayed dark and the wind was nothing more than a breeze now, just like before. But the fact that we might have barely escaped with our lives was soon forgotten. There was a simple reason for that.

"Did you see the tower?" Albricht asked excitedly.

Yes, a tower. That's what I must have seen, I was sure of it now. I nodded. And at the same time goosebumps spread all over my body in anticipation of what we might find there.

"This is not an illusion like those other things, it's right there!"

"Yes, I see..." My eyes were following Albricht's swaying of his torch. It revealed remnants of columns to our left and right and barely recognizable overgrown stairs just a few steps away leading up. Not too far away in the distance I could make out a column that was still standing, clearly as part of an entire wall, supporting a partly ruined structure: Yes, the tower! Did I interpret it correctly that it is still night at this point? Why not set up camp again and examine the spooky ruins in daylight?

"Indeed... We've arrived!" Albricht said, putting into words what we both sensed. We both felt elated - we've reached the end of our journey...

Albricht got up first. Torch in hand he moved straight on towards the ruins, and I followed.

Something felt strange, though. The broken columns we found lying around us, some of them were still standing, didn't seem to follow a certain pattern. This is a strange sentence... Suggestion: Some of the columns were still standing, but the broken ones that were lying around us (etc)" Also, at first I misinterpreted this sentence - fallen down pillars wouldn't follow a pattern, would they? If they just fell down because of age, one would fall left, the other right, etc. I think what you mean to say is that they wouldn't follow a set pattern if they were still standing? Rather they lay haphazardly here and there, dispersed, as if thrown in all directions due to by a force that once caused them to scatter. Huge pieces of the tower's once proud battlements now formed block-shaped grassy hills, quite a bit away from the main structure itself. When we approached the tower we saw that even the walls had large, irregular holes in them. Some of the walls looked literally torn apart.

When we reached what was left of the tower there were no stairs to be found, no portal anymore, no rooms left inside. There was only rubble surrounding the building's perimeter and parts of still erect walls pointing skywards. After a climb over a pile of debris we could at least see what was there, waiting for us within the former tower's broken walls...

At the center of the tower's ring - the moonlight shone on it idyllicaly - seven throne-like stone chairs were placed in a semi-circle. They were facing us like monuments of times past, surrounded by a couple of cold braziers. The area around the center was empty for some reason, entirely untouched by the destruction.

Albricht didn't hesitate an instant. "Let's go down there!" he shouted and slid down the rubble on the other side.

I for my part looked for a safer passage to descend the debris. As I did, I caught something out of the corner of my eye: a glimmer, an unusual sparkle. Curious and in hopes that I might have discovered something of value hidden there between pieces of rubble I stopped stopped or stooped? Both are possible :) and tried to uncovered it.

But I soon ceased my efforts as I found myself looking at my own reflection. It was just a broken mirror. Nothing unusual to find among these ruins, or so I thought, but as I wanted to move on, the figure in the piece of mirror suddenly stirred. Then so did I. I startled in shock started? You can startle someone else, but you can't say "I startled" as if I'd seen a ghost, tripped, lost my balance and fell backwards.

Then everything changed. There was a roaring thunder, the earth trembled, a blinding light. The startling frequency of these flashes might be noteworthy to the narrator, I'd say

When I looked up I was lying next to Albricht's feet. Everything around me was brightly illuminated and I smelled oil and incense burning. I realized that all the braziers had been lit as if by magic, and they threw their light on the stone chairs next to them.

"Dust yourself off, and be polite, Myrem!" I heard Albricht say as he extended a hand to me so that I could up. "We've got company!" He was grinning over his whole face.

I looked around to see what he meant, but there was nobody there. And then I finally realized and I was overcome by a hair-raising unease:

A skeleton was sitting in the stone chair next to me, another one in the adjacent one, and so on all the way through. Each of the seven chairs in front of me was occupied with fleshless bones, some of them held their skulls in mockery on their hands or struck poses, as if they were macabre string puppets and someone had had some fun with them.

Albricht laughed out aloud. "Looks like the place has some magic tricks to offer... But nothing to fear from those here! After all they're dead as stone..." he declared. "But this one... This one got something on it..."

He approached the skeleton on the central chair and pointed at a large ring around one of his bone fingers.

"Excuse me, but I'll have to relieve you of this one..." Albricht said and pulled the ring from the bone. "You know, this is just what a treasure hunter needs in order to gain fame and glory!"

"Indeed it is... visitor!"

A deep, hollow, bone-chilling voice suddenly crept out of nowhere, and it rang loud and menacingly through the remains of the fallen tower. It echoed again and again, and with it the earth began to tremble and the sky to rumble.

The skeleton's bony arm suddenly darted out and seized Albricht's wrist with a firm grip - and then the dead bones began to transform...

[To be continued...]

Phew! That took some time... :) Very nice story though, I'm curious to see what will happen next, and how this puzzle will fit together.
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« Reply #11 on: 20 December 2012, 03:07:33 »

Thanks again for the whole detailed look through, Irid! :D I'll see to fix things during the week and then will move on to part 4, so that we might be able to approach the last part with year's end. We'll see, as there's also Part 6 of the Treasure Shoals to conclude over Christmas/New Year... At any rate: Here, have another aura +1!
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« Reply #12 on: 21 December 2012, 12:45:27 »

Just read part 1.  Very intriguing.  I wonder what is going on in that mysterious swampy mist.   shocked
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« Reply #13 on: 23 December 2012, 17:51:51 »

Okeydokey, the first three parts were now corrected thanks to the help of Irid's wonderful and detailed suggestions! :D Native speakers should find the text a bit more readable and enjoyable now... The fixes and suggestions were all around great, only every now and then I adjusted a passage a bit differently, or in case of "covered by night" I kept "buried by night" as it has a touch of poetry to it methinks. But the detailed check of course was immensely valuable - many thanks once again, Irid! clap

As for the question: Why not set up camp again and examine the spooky ruins in daylight? - Well, we're dealing with true adventurers here of course! If they see that treasure is near, they have to see it instantly. Why take the safe route? It just adds to the drama to let the heroes enter by night. :) Plus our skeleton probably worked in the special effects department and made sure the action is well lit... :D Oh, and there's another, say, implicitly weird reason why they proceed, which might become apparent in retrospect...

Concerning the use of "past" instead of "passed". I remember a scene from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" when Larry David is at his mother's grave with his dad and the stone reads: "Past away on..." - Larry David: "That idiot stonemason, he spelled 'passed' wrong!" - His Dad: "No, no, the stonemason did alright." - Larry David: "What? You told him to write it that way?" - His Dad: "Sure, sure. You get the idea anyway. And he charged 50 dollars per letter, that bastard!" lol
« Last Edit: 23 December 2012, 17:53:22 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged



"Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a mediator, and this must be the heart." -- Maria (Metropolis)
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« Reply #14 on: 27 December 2012, 17:44:51 »

Took a tad longer this time to complete part IV, but here it is with lots of revelations, comprised on four pages. A final part will still be coming with the rest of what might be still unclear, though.
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"Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a mediator, and this must be the heart." -- Maria (Metropolis)
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