Essence Of Dark Lake Read Count : 23

Category : Books-Fiction

Sub Category : Fantasy
Grimloch the beast slayer.

           Journey to the blood mire.


chapter 1- The ominous and the Fortold.

upon the rocky escarpment high in the misty Wylashian mountain's can be seen a warming glow, the comforting crackle of a well tended campfire and the smell of cooked seasoned meat's waft in the crisp night air..The distant cries of prey meeting their end as Owls carry them of into the night sky and the bellowing of hungry Wolves welcoming the cloak of night..
This is the camp of Grimloch, a humble game trapper with a grand destiny.. unbeknownst to him but the events of this night will forever change not just the life of this one man..no but it would change the lives of many.. for this is the origin of the "Beast Slayer".

The trapper seems to pay no mind to the nightly stirring's of the wilderness, having spent most of his life under a blanket of stars and the thought of Wolves near by filled him with optimism for the price of their pelts are worth alot more than that of a Hare's or mountain goat and Seasons past have been rather poor to trappers across this vast land, 

The serenity of nights symphony is quickly stripped away from the man as a blood curdling cry cuts through the air sending a shiver and a sinking feeling that reaches deep into his core to poke his very Soul..
A moment of silence and trepidation follows but this is soon replaced with horror as somthing crashes in the treetops above..then with an unnerving thud the dismembered head and torso of a man is flung at his feet, he had been ripped limb from limb, it's a man familiar to Grimloch.. a fellow trapper who he sees often on the game trails.. overwhelmed with fear Grimloch attempts to hide himself in an enclave in the rocks and in his haste he has left his old sword behind, armed only with a small woodern dagger and his Witt's he peers out on his campsite.

Grimloch summons the courage to call out..show yourself vile creature! and with this the beast drops down from its lofty perch to be aluminated amidst the embers of fires glow, there before him stood a creature like none other, it slowly unfurled it's bat-like wings to reveal that it had the hind legs of a Goat, the waste of a serpent, the torso of a man and the the head of a fish! it's needle-like teeth glistening and an otherworldly glow of yellow in its eyes that seemed to be piercing every fibre of Grimloch's being..

It reached for its quarry and raised it up for Grimloch, and with a spindly tendrel it manipulated the voice of this now lifeless husk and in a garbled voice it began to laugh and called to Grimloch!
GrIMloCh...gRimLOcH.. CentuRies I've wAitEd...
how is it that you know my name Beast! it flung the corpse down on the burning embers and peered in the enclave with its enormous glowing eye... in this moment Grimloch reached within himself and found a strength and courage he did not know that he possessed, and without hesitation he thrust his wooden dagger sharply in the creatures menacing gaze breaking it off within!
it retorted in agony bellowing an ear-splitting shrill,
Grimloch leaped for his old sword and in a rolling action he clasped his trusty weapon and quickly righted himself, the beast charged letting out another ear-splitting shrill! and with the grace and speed of a well accomplished swordsman Grimloch struck a lethal blow to the creatures jugular unleashing a torrent of crimson that fountained furiously!
The beast slumped choking on its blood.. as it lay there Grimloch watched the once ominous glow fade from its listless eyes, at that moment from the fires embers came a whisper?! it was the lifeless trapper?! there was but one word uttered... "Destiny" the heavens above seemed to churn as if a sudden storm was forming, the wind began to howl..that's when Grimloch noticed it, a strange ancient looking glyph began to glow on his left forearm it was the same glow from the creatures eye's and it was beginning to burn painfully.. shortly after Grimloch fell into unconsciousness.

Grimloch awoke just when the mornings dew was lifting..the pain in his arm still ailed him though it had mostly subsided, he turned to where the beast had fallen but there was nothing there but a pile of ash..was it all just a hellish nightmare he thought? then he saw the charred remains of the slain trapper, and his heart sank with sorrow and dread..the word destiny seemed to play on his mind.

Several days later, the wilderness begins to disappear and gives way to pasture land as Grimloch travels his way back to civilization, the first town he happens across is a sleepy little hamlet by the name of "Hollow Oak" were he see's a welcoming sign.. the tavern, it had been months since he had any good ale and he now had such an extraordinary tale to tell, 
what are ye be avin traveler..honey Mead or house ale or is it a room ye be needin? asked the Innkeep, all three in that order replied Grimloch with a laugh, and a cup of ale for any soul that would care to hear my heroic tale of one man's bravery in the face of certain untimely death,
the folk gathered around cup in hand hanging on his every word, after recounting his tale with much heroic embellishments, the townsfolk scoffed and dismissed it as a mere fable and turned around to talk amongst themselves oncemore.. but one old begger took Grimloch by surprise, he had abruptly grasped his left  forearm and said in a weary cracked voice "you bare the mark of prophecy" Grimloch peered closer at the man's weathered face and noticed he was in fact blind?..also disturbingly was the fact that the glyph had faded with no trace whatsoever the morning after the incident yet the blind man could see it's ominous glow..
what do you know of this old man? you had better come with me replied the begger..you are in danger and there is much that you should know. 

Grimloch followed the man to a ancient ruin on the fringes of the village, a crumbled spire once dedicated to the "Old God's" but it's magnificent's and true purpose has been lost to the people of this land for more than an age, they decend below to a dank torch lit chamber covered in moss and smelling of decay and it's there where the begger points to the far wall and utters "your Destiny awaits"...
as Grimloch approached, glyphs began to illuminate themselves upon the wall?! What is all this old man?!
these ancient Runes tell the tale of a forgotten God.. a God that is the embodiment of all beasts in creation..
it is written that this god fell in love with the Sky Goddess and together they created creatures such as the birds and other animals of flight..however this angered the God of God's "The Mana God" who also had fallen in love with the Sky Goddess..he demanded that there love should cease or he'd take back the Mana that tethered there new creations to the mortal coil..
out of love and compassion for their new creatures they reluctantly agreed, but the Mana God had more permanent plans in mind for he knew their love would not so easily be broken, he sent the Beast God through the Vail to this world to look after all the abundance of creatures and it's there where the Mana God struck the first blow..
The very mana tethering the God of Beast's to the mortal realm was ripped away and he shattered into esper's spreading everywhere and into everything forever lost to his beloved Goddess of the Sky.
But what has all this got to do with me old man? I don't understand.. don't you see you fool! your a fragment of the Beast God, for a man is a beast like any other.. and for the first time the Beast God resides in a man and man has the power to shape his own destiny, now there is but one path..you must bring this prophecy into fruition and reclaim your place amongst the Gods, but mind your back Grimloch for the Mana God has eyes everywhere and he will seek to destroy you once and for all..

The next morning Grimloch had risen early eager to know what to do next but the old man was gone!? he had however left a note that read "Grimloch you must now make your way to the "citidel of Vinte'" where you must seek out the Oracle.. sorry I could not stay with you but I'm to old to travel and you are a much to dangerous man to be around, and remember Grimloch there are eyes of the Mana God everywhere so watch your back and stay safe.. your friend the Begger." so he sat at the Inn and demolished three game hens and a tankard of honey mead, he asked the town folk about the "Citidel of Vinte'" you must travel North they had told him, until you reach the village of "Buckland" the people there can guide you further.
On the way Grimloch set up camp by the river, there was still another two days travel by foot to Buckland and it had been a while since he had the chance to wash, so he left his garments on the banks and was enjoying the cool clean mountain water that flowed into this part of the river, it wasn't long before an unexpected visitor showed up.. an Owl swooped down and grasped his garments before swooping them back up into the tree's, Grimlock began shouting at the bird..
"bring those back confounded hoot!"
"I won't warn you again!" so Grimloch picked up a river stone and before he could throw it the Owl had dropped his garments and swooped down and perched itself firmly on Grimloch's shoulder.. he peered into the birds eyes and noticed something odd, the bird had Sterling blue eyes that seemed almost human?!
the Owl then took off into the skies, Grimloch thought maybe these were the eyes of the Mana God that the old man had warned me about..

The next day on the trail Grimloch noticed he wasn't traveling alone..the bird seemed to be following him in the skies above, he called out to it "who are you and why are you following me?!" the bird just circled past his head and replied mockingly "who? who? who?" anoyed he reached for another stone, the bird then  swooped down and perched itself once more on Grimloch's shoulder.. this time he could hear a soft voice within his own head?!.. a feminine voice that seemed oddly familiar to him, "why do you wish to harm me my love" the soft voice spoke, shocked Grimloch nearly fell over but quickly composed himself and asked the bird again "who are you and why are you following me?" the Owl replied "do you not know (sob)?" and took off back into the skies above.. I'm sorry bird please come back, the Owl turned to look back on Grimloch and returned to circling above.

The Sun was beginning to set as Grimloch approached the village gate's of Buckland, it was a site truly to behold, an old gatehouse built long before there was even a town.., adorned with antlers and Ancient carvings depicting scenes of the hunt, reminiscent of Grimloch's former life as a trapper he looked on this with much fondness, "Ho traveler! state your business and I shall grant you entry" stated the Gate master, "I seek a hot meal and a warm bed.. can you point the way to the tavern?" Grimloch replied, "Not from around here are you?.. hold on I'll get the gate" not sure as to his meaning of that remark Grimloch dismissed it and thanked the Gate master for granting him entry, as Grimloch made his way to the tavern people seemed to be starring? there is something definitely odd about this place he thought but I'm much to tired to investigate it now.. so Grimloch purchased a bed for the night and settled in and it wasn't long before he was fast asleep.


        Chapter 2- The looming Storm.

Later that night Grimloch was awoken to a frightful crash, the window shutters to his room had flung open and his traveling companion had flown in.. "Grimloch get up you are in danger!" the bird said alarmingly, so fearing the worst Grimloch climbed up into the rafters and braced himself pensively between the beams.. the door to his room cracked open and three shadowy figure's emerged brandishing dagger's and a large rope, they moved towards the bed where moments before he had been sleeping.. he's gone one of them exclaimed, what are we to tell the master.. if we don't have an offering it will be one of us! or worse yet one of our kin!.. they hurriedly left the room and not a moment to soon for Grimloch almost had lost his grip and would have certainly faced confrontation with his hooded assailants had they lingered, Grimloch did not sleep a wink there after choosing wisely to stay awake and to ponder his next move..

Once morning arrived Grimloch made his way downstairs to the Mead hall and approached the Innkeep, he was quick to notice the erratic nature of the Innkeep's eyes.. what troubles you good sir Grimloch said assertively as to not arouse the suspicion of the man.. "ah ..ah no trouble traveler.. did you..rest well?" that I did.. fetch me a tankard of your best ale good sir  and I would also like direction's to the Citidel of Vinte' if you know the way replied Grimloch, the Innkeep served him and went on to tell Grimloch about the Citidel and that it could be found in the City heart of "Escalibad" Far to the Northwest past the "Precipice of Folgore" and that it would be more than a fortnight's travel by foot, then the Innkeeps mood seem to revert back to a state of nervousness and with unwilling insistence he said "you should really stay in town another night traveler.. it's a long journey and you shall need your strength.." No I'm no stranger to life on the roads I was born to wilderness and think of towns and  taverns as a luxury which I seldom spend.. I shall bid you good day Innkeep and be on my way replied Grimloch.
 
Not long after leaving Buckland the Owl had returned and it was circling above oncemore, Grimloch called out "Thank you kind Owl for your warning.." I shall protect and guide you always.. but you have a destiny in Buckland.. one day you must return the soft voice said, what is my destiny here? replied Grimloch but the bird was silent and just continued circling.
Three days later Grimloch found himself in a mountain valley named "Farragan's folly" where an ancient battle was fought and a blunderous King's actions saw the falling of a Kingdom hence it's namesake, the long grasses here are like razors almost unbending in the breeze and are arranged in thickets that seem to checker the valley this with the addition of protruding rusted iron relics left after the battle began to slow Grimloch's pace rather substantially but onward he pressed ever determined, it wasn't long before he reached the valley ford, a shallow crossing over the "Tibre' River" at the base of the valley, there he spotted an an Ancient looking marker stone.. he was about to dismiss it and continue onwards but his traveling companion came to perch upon it and this drew his gaze oncemore, on closer inspection Grimloch noticed one of the Rune carvings was the same as the glyph that burned so painfully on his forearm many weeks before and what troubles him the most was there were another fourteen more..
what do these Runes tell us bird Grimloch asked inquisitively, "my name is "Astralcina" not bird! and beneath this stone lay buried a sword of incredible power..it was placed there by.. nevermind but it will be yours to claim when you are powerful enough that is all I can say." why can't I have it now Grimloch exclaimed as he tried to shift the seemingly small stone, it won't shift its tied down with Magic said Astral..let's continue onward darkness will be upon us soon.
That night Grimloch camped on the western slope of the valley and he could not help to ponder the mysteries of the stone but Astral was staying silent on the matter and no amount of pestering from Grimloch would sway her otherwise, get your rest Grimloch there is still much ground to cover and I foresee many troubling times ahead..

That very night Grimloch had a frightful dream, he dreamt he was on the Battlefield of "Farragan's Folly" seeing it as if he were there all those centuries ago..the sounds of sword clash and the flights of arrows whistling through the air, the roaring battle cry of one million men, the stagnant stench of Death lingering on the air and the blood curdling wailing of soldier's as they lay dismembered and dieing.. at first it all seemed distant like murmurs circling in an enveloping fog but with every step it's horrific clarity became ever present to the point in which Grimloch awoke with a frightful shout!
somewhat out of breath whilst clambering for his sword Grimloch paused.. and wipes his brow as a renewed state of calm settles with the familiar setting of his camp, he looked down on the valley bellow with a shiver and thought I must get as far away from this place as possible...I can still hear their screams.

Another two days pass in rather uneventful travel, Grimloch hadn't spoken with Astral about the frightful vision of the valley and doughts began to enter his mind as to the gravity of the quest and his place there in..he missed the simpler time in his life, his forested mountain's and gentle streams, this new found destiny felt as though a curse had befallen him..
Now destiny's path led Grimloch to landscapes unknown to him, the fur tree's and grassy medows give way to jutting cliffs and baron rocky outcrops blanketed in moss, the rolling of the fog thick at times seemed to come and go without warning hampering his quest, Astral has been scouting the path ahead when she calls out from up high "we're approaching the Precipice of Folgore Grimloch..it looks incredible from up here!" climbing over the rise it's then he sees it.. there before him was an immense gorge like no other, stretching far beyond the horizon in both directions and over a mile in depth! Grimloch had heard the tales but standing before it he was not prepared for the grand scale of the gorge and its beauty, waterfalls flowing down in either direction seemed to cast a series of rainbows and at its basin a lush prehistoric rainforest filled with the sounds of exotic birds, Grimloch was completely awestruck.

Astral flew out over the expanse with a sense of glee circling a few times before returning to Grimloch "what do you know of this place" she asked inquisitively, Legends tell of a colossal dragon known as "Folgore" that tore apart the land gathering earth to build the fire mountain's of the south.. Astral looked at Grimloch bemused and said there is a grain of truth to the legends.."Folgore" is the name given to the "God of Earth" and it's his power that shapes the land.., completely endulged with wonderment Grimloch suggested they stay awhile so with this revelation he reached for his Mead horn and watched the Sun set telling stories with Astral and now with his spirits lifted a renewed sense of Adventure was dawning.

Grimloch awoke to a gentle breeze the following morning and was still very much amazed as to the dramatic landscape he found himself in, he set about making his breakfast and giving his old sword some much needed repairs, Astral had left the camp before Grimloch had risen in order to scout the path ahead and to catch some breakfast for herself, when she returned she found Grimloch counting the few gold coins he had remaining and with a sigh he said Im going to need more gold for this quest but I haven't had the time to trap any game.. Gold is not a problem.. I know where you can find a kings fortune Astral replied, Grimloch's eyes began to widen..then I insist that you  show me he said with eager enthusiasm, it may take us a few more days to reach "Escalibad" and retrieving the treasure is not without its perils but if you insist I will show you..yes Astral I insist and with that the pair set off with the promise of riches and adventure.
Astral led Grimloch to an ancient forest north east of the Precipice, upon their arrival she sat Grimloch down and explained that deep in this forest they would find
the ruins of a village that was cursed long ago by the forest spirits because the villagers that lived there cut down a sacred tree that once stood proudly at the beginning of the world, the spirits turned the villagers to stone and over time the village itself was swallowed by the forest and today most people dare not venture to far in for fear of the spirits wrath, how is it you know of this place Astral asked Grimloch with the mildest of trepidation, I have lived for many lifetimes Grimloch and know much of the world is that so strange? you will know everything when the time comes but for now you must focus on the quest at hand Astral replied and with that she took to the sky, Grimloch turned to look where she had flown off to but could not spot her..hmm odd he thought and with a shrug of the shoulder he proceeded into the darkness of the forest.

The moist mossy mushroom laden forest undergrowth glistened as rays of light gently peered through the dense canopy above, this forest seemed different..ancient with an air of wisdom and an  ambience of a forgotten age where time seemed irrelevant, this accompanied with the thought of crossing paths with the forest spirits gave Grimloch a feeling of heightened unease but the prospect of riches and the promise of adventure was all the motivation he needed. 
It wasn't long before Grimloch found himself amidst the ivy choked crumbling stonework of the cursed village..the statuesque villagers some cracked and broken seemed as though they had been frozen whilst  tending to the mediocrity of day to day life, the Baker baking his daily bread, the old women weaving her  baskets and even the children playing with expression's of joy eternally etched upon thier faces, the curse that had befallen them was apparently sudden..this gave Grimloch pause for he thought what if I was stricken with this curse.. in that moment Grimloch heard Astral's voice..look for the large ruin with the gargoyle fountain in its centre she whispered to him, Grimloch looked around to see her but she was nowhere to be found.. he thought it rather odd that she whispered, he'd always assumed thier conversations were private being that her voice resonates within his mind.. this was a curiosity that troubled him slightly but having come this far and having the promise of gold so close he wasn't going to question it now, soon Grimloch had found the ruin that Astral had spoke of and began searching for anything that could potentially hold the riches he seeked, a large chest a door or marker but nothing seemed to stand out, he called out for Astral what is it I'm supposed to be searching for? but only silence followed.. at first he felt frustration then fear for he realised it was not only Astral that was silent the whole forest seemed to be holding its breath, just as panic was about to take its hold Grimloch noticed shadowy figure's emerging from all directions of the forest gradually encircling him! he was trapped!! the frightening figures continued ever forward until they could clearly be seen.. Grimloch froze with fear for it was indeed the forest spirits they seemed not to be comprised of bone and flesh rather knarled tree roots, stones and moss! they paused metres from Grimloch then the largest of the spirits approached a little closer.. stay back!! Grimloch had shouted with sword arm trembling yet poised to use the spirit turned to its brethren and spoke in an indiscernible language that sounded like pebbles grinding with broken twigs then it returned it's menacing gaze back towards Grimloch

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