early and were on the path before the sun had risen. By torchlight armor had
been donned and wagons packed. With weapons at the ready and courage stoked
they headed for the floating lake.
Kram had been
very quiet. He had insisted the lake was nonsense since the Wizard had
mentioned it. Now he was off to face it. By the fire light Cameron thought he
looked even paler than usual.
Swisser and Cameron was again beside him on the cold bench seat. Drenwa walked
behind the cart with Kram and Phaelan walked along beside Cameron. Phaelan was
leading her horse by the reigns.
they crested the pass and began the short trip down the rocky slope. The path
in the trees that would take them under the lake lie ahead. Cameron’s heart was
in his throat and he felt that he would not be able to speak, even if he had
had something to say.
Phaelan also looked
paler than usual. Cameron noticed she wore a look of courage on her face which
he did not feel would be present on his own. Again, he was impressed by her
strength. She looked over at him and gave him a small, crooked smile. It took
him much effort to smile back but he felt better when he had. She placed her
hand on the handle of her sword. Cameron did the same.
The sky had
lightened slightly by the time they had entered the trees. The trees were small
and widely spaced so it was easy to see the lake as they came closer to it. In
the dim morning light it looked much larger than it had from up on the pass. As
the first of the party came to the surface level of the lake, Cameron could see
the water really was floating high above the trees.
It was like
coming under a low lying fog. Yet it was thicker and moving as water does, ripples and waves crashing against the shore. However, in this case, there was
no shore; just the air over their heads. The water was lapping up against the
invisible bank and retreating within itself. The sight was surreal.
The party had
been split in half with the wagons in the middle. Brogan and the King were
taking the lead. The knights immediately
behind them were watching the path to clear any debris that might impede their
passage. So far, the path was clean.
of the group was coming under the lake now. The entire group was silent but for
the sound of their movements. As the lake went high over their heads Cameron
felt as if his heart would stop. He was certain everyone else could hear it
had been getting much lighter outside it was dark again under the lake. The
mass of water over their heads did not allow much light through. The sun will be up soon he thought, and we
will be able to see more clearly. But so will they. His mind added.
torches had been extinguished so going was slow in the dim light. The ground
appeared to be very much like Cameron would have pictured the bottom of a lake
to look, only if it had been dry for many years and vegetation had started to
grow here and there. There were trees ten to fifteen feet tall. Cameron thought
that soon they would grow into the water above their heads. He wondered what
would become of the trees then.
party was below the lake now. It was becoming bright enough to see each other's
faces. The water overhead was becoming lighter. The sun would soon come over
the mountain. Cameron hoped they would be past the lake by then. He looked
ahead in the dim light. He did not think that was going to happen. There was no
end in sight.
overhead. The sky was a moving, shimmering lake surface. He wondered how deep
it was? The slate grey mass of water seemed to press down on them. Cameron
began to feel a little claustrophobic.
What if the water stopped floating? They would all drown if the water
came down on their heads. They would not have a chance; certainly the creatures
in the lake would get them.
Just then a
shadow passed overhead, something large and fast. He watched intently. Another
passed. He looked over at Phaelan. She was tentatively looking up as well.
Drogno said quietly as he put his hand on Cameron’s knee. “Keep a clear head. That will be our only
chance to get out of here alive.”
nodded. He could not speak. He was terrified.
He looked back
at Drenwa and Kram. Kram was watching overhead as well, his sword in hand. More
of the shadows could be seen moving around in the lake. Drenwa gave Cameron a
curt nod and raised a clenched fist. Cameron nodded slightly.
ahead and found he could see better now. It was getting much lighter. He
wondered if the sun had come over the mountains. Many of the soldiers had
arrows on the string. Others had loaded crossbows and the rest had their swords
drawn. All kept at least one eye on the water above their heads.
see Aodhan and Brogan at the head of the party and for some distance beyond
them. Still, there was no sign they were coming to the end of the lake. They
had been under the lake for at least a half hour. They must be nearly half way
by Aodhan’s estimation.
overhead had stopped swimming aimlessly around and were definitely concentrated
over them. Cameron had no doubt the Sclagg were aware of them; watching them,
waiting for the right moment.
had their bows pointed at the underside of the lake. There were about a dozen
archers, including the cross-bows, and Cameron figured at least twice that many
Sclagg. Even if each archer fatally hit a different Sclagg it would not be
The sun was
hitting the lake directly now and Cameron could see the creatures much more
clearly. Each was two or three times the
size of a man. They looked like dark green ghosts. They appeared to be covered
in long kelp-like seaweeds. Cameron
could not clearly see which part was the head.
They simply looked like large, living kelp beds.
As Cameron was
looking up an arrow was released by one of the archers. It shot into the
surface of the water overhead and the Sclagg that the archer had been aiming at
easily shifted to one side and the arrow shot past it. The creature came to no
more than an inch above the surface of the water over the archer who had
released the arrow. The entire party had stopped moving.
All the Sclagg
were motionless but for the flowing of the long weeds around their bodies.
Quite suddenly, dozens of the tentacle like weeds shot out from the closest
Sclagg and easily reached the archer twenty feet below. It was so fast the
archer had no chance to respond. The tendrils engulfed his body and pulled him
up into the lake. In one terrifying moment, the Sclagg was gone to another part
of the lake, presumably to eat his prey. The whole thing took only seconds.
Cameron barely had time to register what had happened when he heard Brogans
ARROWS,” he roared at the archers, and to everyone else, “RUN.”
In the next
moment all was chaos. A volley of arrows shot up into the lake just as hundreds
of the tendrils flew down from the surface and grabbed whatever they touched.
around were being yanked from the ground and pulled into the lake. Phaelan, now
on horseback, kicked her horse hard in the ribs and it bolted forward just as
Drogno slapped Swisser's reins on the animal's back. Swisser needed no coaxing,
he was already off. Cameron looked behind to check on Drenwa and Kram. They
both had their swords out and were swinging wildly overhead as they ran.
some archers had hit their mark and some of the massive Sclagg were falling
from the lake down onto their heads. When they hit the ground they squirmed
clumsily like slimy, living masses of weeds. Their tentacles lashed out,
slamming some of the soldiers who screamed in agony at the creature's touch. It
seemed the tendrils would sting any bare skin they contacted.
navigated the cart through the falling Sclagg, around soldiers fighting the
tentacles from above and the dying creatures on the ground. Phaelan was out
ahead now running through the soldiers and avoiding the reach of the deadly
tendrils as they blindly combed the ground looking for victims. Cameron was
swinging his sword, cutting tentacles away from Drogno as he tried to keep
Swisser and the cart heading in the same direction.
Out the corner
of his eye, Cameron saw Kram was being overwhelmed by tentacles as Drenwa tried
to cut them away. He could hear Kram screaming as they stung his flesh.
Suddenly, Kram was being hoisted up towards the water. Cameron could see Drenwa
was helpless to save his friend. He turned and scanned for Phaelan. He saw her
twenty yards ahead. Subconsciously, he noticed that about that distance again
there was sunlight shining down and the valley floor was sloping up.
screamed at the top of his lungs.
she heard him over the sounds of soldiers and Sclagg fighting all around. She
turned her head and Cameron pointed at Kram’s flailing form being pulled toward
the lake. She turned her horse and started running. She soon realized she would
never make it. She pulled a bow from the side of her saddle and in the blink of
an eye had an arrow on the string and it was away. Years of training alongside
her father paid off. The arrow sunk deep into thickest part of the Sclagg.
uttered a gurgling shriek and fell from the lake, tumbling and twisting through
the air. Kram and the beast landed in a heap. Kram had stopped screaming and
was struggling to pull himself from the tentacles of the dying monster. Drenwa
had just managed to jump out from under the creature as it fell and now he had
spun to help cut his friend from its grasp. He could see that Kram appeared to
be going into shock and it looked as if his arm was badly broken.
the cart around and wove through the carnage back toward his friends. Just as
he arrived at the now dead Sclagg, his brother was hoisting Kram from the
severed tentacles. He threw the injured Graflander on the wagon and jumped up
yelled over all the fighting, “GO NOW.”
the reins again and the grosch bolted for the distant sunlight. Cameron could
see that Phaelan had turned and was running out from under the lake. She was
nearly at her father and the King's position. They were busy keeping the exit
clear of Sclagg so that as many of their men who were able could leave.
behind and could see the rear guard catching up to them. They were fighting
back the seemingly endless supply of Sclagg which were now pursuing them.
Cameron could see many soldiers were dead or missing. He hoped most of the
missing had gotten clear of the lake and weren’t lost to its monstrous
forward to see how far they had to go just in time to see the largest Sclagg he
had yet seen emerge from over Phaelan’s head. She was unaware of its presence
and could not see the tentacles dropping down from the floating lake reaching
for her from behind.
Cameron yelled. “Behind you!”
But she could
not hear him. She was too far and the fighting too noisy. Cameron looked over
at Aodhan and Brogan. They were busy fighting to her left and could not see the
danger she was in. He had to do something.
Before he knew
what he was doing he got to his feet and leapt from the cart in the direction
of Phaelan. Just as he hit the ground running the Sclagg wrapped its tendrils
around the hind legs of Phaelan’s horse. In the blink of an eye the horse was
pulled out from under the girl and she was flying through the air. She hit the
ground hard and appeared to be unconscious.
harder, as fast as his legs could carry him. She was only fifteen yards ahead
now. He had his sword drawn and he was screaming at her, his voice so raw now
hardly a sound came out.
He heard a
horrible, screaming, terrified animal sound and looked up to see the massive
horse being pulled into the floating lake. The horse’s eyes were white with
terror as two Sclagg fought over it. The horse's screaming was instantly choked
out when the monsters pulled it into the water.