The Oasis of Broken Bones
Part Six – Eyes of Sin
From out of the temple there emerged a shape, pale and fleet, gliding just beneath the waters so that the reflection of the moon across it shattered. Ripples arrowed swift towards where Peregrine stood upon the shore. The stirred up waters glowed with an eerie light as the beast moved through them, a faint luminescence of unknown origin.
From his vantage point atop the temple, Blade watched it swim, catching a glimpse of a beast reptilian in form, alike to some crocodile, though one of a size unlike any he had seen or heard tell of. He raised his crossbow up to his shoulder and sighted along it, taking aim at the beast. He squeezed the trigger, sending the quarrel humming through the air, straight and true. It struck the beast full in the back, but to no effect. Gnarled hide, tough as iron, defeated the quarrel, sending it bouncing off as a mere irritation. Blade hastily started to reload as he watched it near the shore.
Peregrine had retreated back from the water’s edge, allowing the beast to come to her and making ready for its arrival. She had her spear gripped tight, set against an attack, the end driven into the ground. As she watched, from out of the waters the beast lunged forth, all maw and terrible jagged teeth. The foulness of its breath washed over Peregrine and her senses swooned beneath it, her attention broken. The maw snapped shut as it came at Peregrine. On instinct alone did she leap back away from the tearing teeth, her tigerish reflexes kicking in. The blast of the breath lessened and Peregrine’s wit’s recovered enough. She thrust forward with her spear, putting all of her might behind the blow. The spear crashed into the head of the beast yet was turned aside by the hide, leaving only a scratch behind.
A wild laugh came from Peregrine as she faced down the beast. It would not be one to die easy, but nor could the same be said if her. Setting herself for the battle to come, fearless she met the beast.
From his perch atop the temple, Blade finished reloading his crossbow, thoughts of the battle raging at the water edge forgotten. If any could defeat the monster that had emerged from the waters, it would be Peregrine, and so he left her to fight her own battle as he prepared for his. With light step he made his way across to the edge of the temple, above where the entrance opened up. Holding the crossbow in one hand, he turned about to face away from the entrance. He stepped backwards and allowed himself to fall, catching onto the rim of the roof with his free hand as he began his descent. Pushing off with his feet above the doorway, he swung himself out from the wall and then back again, propelling himself in through the entrance.
A wall of stench hit him as he did so, overwhelming, foetid, clawing at his throat and nostrils with its acrid aroma. His eyes watered and he tried not to breath as he landed in the water that covered the floor of the entrance chamber. Bones and chunks of rotting meat bobbed across the surface of the water, among a film of decay and slime that swirled about. More could be seen further back in the chamber, where the floor sloped upwards to dry ground. A doorway, all at an angle from the way the temple had subsided, led into another chamber, one from which the glow of light came. Blade picked his way towards it, finger resting lightly upon the trigger of the crossbow, the weapon held at the ready for any hint of danger.
Bones ratted as the gentle swell of the water sent them bouncing off each other. The stench grew worse still the deeper into the building he went. Pausing in his advance, he switched the crossbow to a grip in his right hand while with the other he fished out a scented kerchief, which he held to his mouth and nose to block out the odour.
But for the glow that drew him on, the darkness would have been absolute towards the rear of the chamber, yet it was not a glow to inspire confidence in any who laid eyes upon it. It had an insipid, pallid colour about it, and a feel that set the skin to crawling. The door held his attention and when he reached it, he peered on through to the chamber beyond with great caution.
He could see, hanging in the air in the middle of the chamber, a weird arcane rune, one in part reminiscent of a crocodile, but more as well. The source of the glow, he could sense a palpable evil radiating from it. Beyond the rune, a man sat cross legged on the ground, all gaunt with sunken flesh and sharp angles. A simple set of faded and fraying robes hung from his frame. Bald of head, his eyes were close and he sat still, unmoving, not even breathing betraying if he was alive or dead.
Despite the silence of Blade’s approach, the man looked up and at Blade, his eyes opening. The eyes burned with such cruelty and depravity that Blade almost recoiled from them. They were not eyes such as seen in the face of a man, but of creatures of the dark places, malicious and inhuman. The eyes pierced through Blade as a sing-song word escaped from the man’s lips, one that bespoke power, turning into a wind that buffeted the chamber. It swept forward and slammed into Blade with force enough to knock him from his feet. As he fell, his finger squeezed on the trigger of the crossbow in a reflexive action, sending the quarrel flying. It was snatched up by the wind and dashed away to clatter into a wall. Blade landed heavily on the ground, all wind knocked from him, leaving him at the mercy of the man with eyes of sin.
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