Happy #fridayreads with an excerpt

My last blog post was an excerpt from my book. It met with such a positive response I felt I would do the same again today. Perhaps it will become #fridayreads regular activity. My plan had been to post an excerpt from Book II today but I am just not quite ready to let that out yet. Soon though... :)

So without further ado let's get to the story.

Chapter 11

The Floating Lake

They awoke 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. 

Drogno drove 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.

Before long, 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.

Cameron’s part 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 pounding. 

Although 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.

All the 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.

The entire 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.

Cameron looked 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.

“Stay calm,” 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.”

Cameron 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.

He looked 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.

Cameron could 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.

The shadows 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.

The archers 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 enough.

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 voice.

“RELEASE YOUR 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.

Soldiers all 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.

Cameron saw 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.

Swisser 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.

“PHAELAN,” he screamed at the top of his lungs.  “PHAELAN, HELP.”

Miraculously, 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. 

The creature 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.

Drogno swung 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 himself.

“GO,” Drenwa yelled over all the fighting, “GO NOW.”

Drogno whipped 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. 

Cameron looked 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 inhabitants.

He turned 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.

“Phaelan!” 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.

Cameron ran 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.

Cameron looked back at Phaelan; he could not bear to see anymore. His horror was only heightened when he saw that another Sclagg was hanging over her, its deadly tentacles feeling blindly around her unconscious body. Cameron had seen enough death this day; he was not going to watch her die as well.

He came upon the Sclagg and started swinging with all his might, cutting every tentacle he hit. The beast turned its attention on him just as Brogan and Aodhan came running up. Cameron never noticed them. He was fighting for his life as the tentacles started to engulf him. He swung wildly through the burning, stinging pain until he was overwhelmed by the Sclagg’s persistent attack and he knew no more.

I hope you enjoyed it. if you want know how things turn out download The Adventures of Phippen Abercrombie on Amazon.

Image rosivan4eva via www.wunderground.com 

Craig Milton on StoryFinds