The Depths were always dark, and full of danger, where monstrous beings grow in places no sunlight had ever touched. It was a world of kill or be killed, hunting, fleeing, evading, sneaking, marauding...
And survival. The top rule of everything that ever existed in the Depths, as it has been for tenths of thousands years.
Most land-walkers never dared to go in and explore, those who did were either foolish or just plain daft to its reputation. Magic-users, mechanical contraptions, divers, really, Slark thought that he had met them all. Most land-striders think that the Depths only contain mindless beasts, giant colossal monstrosities and such,. And they would gape at sentient beings under water.
But it never matters, one careful strike and even the mightiest would fall like the rest.
And that, is just the Depths. Unbelievable or not, there was actually a society under water, a strange mix of strange races, some humanoid, some, not so much.
And as with every society, there are always outcasts, criminals, fugitives. And them, would be sent to Darkreef Prison. Normal, above ground prisons are bad enough, even with a relatively peaceful races of elves, humans, dwarves. Under water, however, would be described as hell drowned.
There wasn't an exact rule, just a maze of halls, corridors, traps, and everything nasty. Without the corals, the place would usually be shrouded in permanent darkness. The "inmates', if you can call them that, are in a permanent quest for survival, hunting for whatever food they can find amidst the pillars, halls, corals... If if desperate, they would gladly and willingly turn on each other.
But the real horror wasn't that. It was the constant threat of being caught by the guards, and the promised misery that they would inflict. Giant eels, the size of mountains when coiled up, they would slither through the corridors, gulping down anyone unlucky enough to cross their paths. Anemones grew in the shadows, snaring the unwary with their white glistering tentacles and ensuring them a very slow and agonizing death.
Most inmates wouldn't last more than a month, some manage a year, a few survived two years.
And Slark lived for more than a decade in the Darkreef Prison.
To be honest ( not that he would ever be ), Slark could not remember how he got here, where he was from, who he was, when he came... All that he remembered, was that his name was Slark, and to keep to himself, to keep an ear out, to survive. Not that he was a craven, hiding away. He had his fair share of rough-work, and he always made sure that none lived to tell about it.
There is only one way in, and one way out of this drowned hell, the gate where the Slithereens tossed a newbie in, unconscious in a blob of yellow glue.
There was an unsung agreement that the newbies would have a grace period, that they are not to be touched (attacked, killed, harmed, cannibalized, maimed, etc). After all, they all know what it feels to be thrown into a pit. Not even the eels or anemones would touch them.
One day, (or night, it doesn't matters in the Depths) Slark had heard a whisper, a rumor that twelve inmates were planning to breakout. He had scoffed at their optimism, knowing that their fate was already sealed. No one, not in a thousand years, had ever made it out of Darkreef Prison alive. But despite his apparent disbelieve, he was a bit interested. The Darkreef Dozen, as they call them selves, are the hardest, deadliest, most savage bunch of the under world, all had at least two years under their belt. Only they had ever had the right to boast of killing an full grown eel and feasting on its corpse, or to have lived for so long. They, of cause in their arrogant ways, never knew that Slark, the ghost legend had taken an interest in them.
They show promise, of a sort. Though Slark only trust them as far as he can gut them with his shiv.
So, from that fateful day on, he began trailing them, drifting near them unseen and unknown. He had quickly discovered their plans, through one way or another. He had to admit, that these Darkreef Dozen knew what they are doing, wherever they go, they would leave one or two to kill off anyone that might be following them, generally closing off everyone. Their plan was simple, kill an eel, dress up in its empty bag of scales and hide by the door, to rush out the moment the Slithereens open the blasted gate. It, if done correctly or nothing went wrong, as unlikely as it is, it could work. With a lot of casualties, of cause.
The eel they had targeted was a youngling, its milky scales still hadn't darken yet. They had ambushed it, and quickly silenced it with single strike down the throat. They had dragged the carcass off, and started working on it. They dug in through the mouth, removing the flesh and leaving only the skin behind. One by one, after feasting on the meat, they climbed in, lining up inside, with the leader in the front working the jaws and directing them. At first the fake eel had appeared to be convulsing, but after some practice they had more or less mastered puppeteering an empty bag of an eel.
It took almost all of Slark's willpower to not to burst out laughing at their ridiculous attempt, spasming right and left.
And they had apparently decided to go for it right away, twitching their way through the corridors, occasionally bumping into a wall, acting like an eel with a supreme headache, though overtime their movement did seem a bit more coordinated. Trailing idly behind them, Slark contemplate what might happen. They would be able to overpower the two guards that haul the newbie in, but beyond the gate, he had no idea what awaits. More guards? Giant sea monsters? Both seemed very likely, and very, very lethal.
It was against Slark's instinct to try to bull their way out. He was the 'keep to the shadows and gut them in the back' type, and right now, watching the make-shift eel writhing was exactly raising his hopes. He pondered on that wether if it is a good idea after all to join in the rebelling, for after all, these Darkreef Dozen seemed a bit... Inadequate. Really, someone that was stupid enough to get caught weren't the best of them all out there, weren't they?
After trailing them for a few hours (or at least he thought it was), the eel had reached the gate, now floating idly above. The gates were closed and the chamber was still, all but the seaweed waving in the water, small shoals of fishes drifting, strange corals casting red light across the corroded walls. The Chamber itself was a large ball-shaped room, numerous tunnels spiraling from it. The gate it self is not particularly impressive to look at, just a glorified, rusting hatch welded to the wall.
Slark himself lingered behind a pillar, waiting patiently, his pores naturally oozing dark smoke, hiding his form from sight. He was always able to do so, smoke pulsing from him. He never knew why, or really how he could do so. Is it just limited to him? Or doe it runs in his... family? The word was alien and strange on his tongue.
Slowly, after awhile, he can faintly hear a ring sound, clinking and clinking. He perked up instantly, recognizing the sound, and evidently the eel does too, the skin growing taut. It was a surprise, somewhat, that the gate will be opened so soon. With annoyance, Slark found out that his pores are now practically flooding with ink. He always carry his backpack around, containing all his tools, trophies and relevant booties, though anything not useful he would promptly discard. He draw his hood tighter, his muscles tense and twitching.
The gate flicked open, and in came two heavily armed Slithereens, chatting idly while dragging a heavy yellow blob behind them. They heaved and flung the blob into the centre of the room, amber smoke rising.
The fake eel suddenly lurched forward at the guards, causing them to stumble backward. One of the guard regained his stance quickly and readied it, thrusting it at the belly of the fake eel. The Aquadric metal pierced the soft skin of the young eel like a fork through glob, and from its wound echoed a very, very Slithereen scream, blood gushing out of the gash.
And the eel literally bursted apart, the remaining Darkreef Dozen tearing the skin, and quickly overwhelmed the shocked guards, taking their gear.
It had begun! Slark thought enthusiastically, though its a pity that one died already before even starting.
The Darkreef Dozen, or Eleven, now, silently crept in and out of the hatch, one by one, each obviously tensed and alert. Slark followed behind, similarly anxious. It was a feeling that he hadn't experienced a long time, of not knowing what might happen. He was literally betting his life.
However, moments after Slark step through and threw himself among the seaweeds, the Hatch suddenly slammed shut, closing off the maze. The leader of the Darkreef Dozen swore loudly and soundly as the sirens started to swirl. They had emerged into a another big chamber, a rectangular room that was completely lined with spikes. The Darkreef Dozen rushed forward the opening -
- And came face to face with an entire legion of Slithereen guards, all armed to the teeth, their spears filling the entrance and all pointed at them.
And they started to advance, an impenetrable spear wall moving. The Darkreef Dozen started to back up uncertainly, until they realize that the wall behind them was a dead end, and the walls were lined with spikes with no alternate exits.
It was a complete death trap. Either you get impaled by the spears, or get impaled by the spikes.
Slark cursed his luck, as he float near the spike infested ground, pondering the odds of him going through the legion.
Nope, not going to happen anytime soon, not going to work either unless something -
And the Darkreef Dozen suddenly charged at the Slithereen guards, their shivs raised and screaming bloody murder, their surprise attack worked as the managed to drop the first guard in the middle before they realized what happened, closing the distance and rendering the range of the spears useless.
To their credit, the Darkreef Dozen putted up a good fight, killing at least fifty guards before the leader and his first mate was forced to surrender, the majority of their comrades and enemies mangled and bleeding, either impaled or in pieces, red tingeing the water. They were bound and beaten senseless before being dragged out of the hall, presumely for a even more horrifying torture.
And while all these were happening, Slark was just a murky, lethal shadow, working his way through the guards, and had actually been responsible for at least half of the dead. If you ask the surviving Slithereens, they would not even remember such an anomaly.
After avoiding the guards, slipping out of the compound, he finally had his first breathe of fresh water. He had long forgotten what clean water taste like through his gills, not filled with filth, blood and toxic. He had long forgotten just how beautiful the underwater cities are, merman, Slithereens living happy, truthful lives, not knowing of the horrors that were just buried next door.
After escaping, Slark actually felt quite lost.
What can he do? What should he do? He can not and will not stay, not now and not ever. The cities would just remind him of the life he once lost, impossible to communicate with anyone who had not seen such nightmares. He was jealous of their ignorance, he realized.
To the land of the dry-walkers.
This ridiculous notion somehow popped into his mind, and he almost dismissed it right away.
Almost. Actually, when he think of it: why not? He was an out cast anywhere underwater. Why not spend his life going up on land, terrorizing villages?
That was a savory idea, and he proceeded to make himself the reputation of the Nightcrawler.
That, was until a certain bounty hunter showed up on his door step with a very sharp blade.