Brief note: I liked the other stories on here but I wanted to do it my way, with a few less common Fanfic tropes. Enjoy!
Slayers: Monster hunters and killers.
Morad: Large, Wolf-like creature. Closer in size to small bear, but more lean. Possesses high intelligence and normally works in very small packs. None have ever been domesticated, but they are known to actually work with humans to eliminate larger threats in their territory for their mutual benefit.
Wraith: If a Sabretooth tiger had 3 tails that all worked independently the hunting smarts of man, you would get a wraith. They are large predatory cats known to make traps for other predators using their tails to simulate prey in distress, or to fool men into thinking something much smaller and less dangerous is in the bushes.
Drakul: Similar to a dragon, these mighty creatures are scaled behemoths capable of vast destruction if they cared. Most do not - They choose to reside deep underground or in mountains far away from civilization.
Kronizeen: Goddess of Survival (when a child returns from the woods unharmed or someone experiences a near death experience they pray to Kronizeen)
Terav: Small village
Blackwood: Dense forest where monsters grow larger, more aggressive, and in larger numbers.
Darklight Cave: A feared cave with many superstitious fears.
Chapter 1: Tidings of Fear
In a land of rampant monsters, murderous humans, and a swift death promised for the unwary, the sunrise proved to be all the more beautiful for it. Golden spears lanced across the sky, illuminating the fog that clung low, just above the tops of the trees. A weary guard attempted to block the sun with one hand while he grasped a crude spear in the other, pointed to the sky.
"My, its a beautiful morning for you to take over my shift Bernard. What a sight for sore eyes!" Bernard, approaching the gate his fellow was stationed at gave him a frosty look, less than thrilled about having to wake at the hour he did.
"Ya know George they put you on this shift because everyone knows you don't need your beauty sleep, wouldn't do a damn thing for you."
The recipient of the feigned insult had the presence of mind still to put on an offended air. "Why my dear sir I don't know whatever you might mean by that, if it was you we were talking about I would be significantly more understanding however." Stepping into a firm handshake, they both grinned from ear to ear.
"Get some sleep George, you look like hell. Any trouble last night?"
Handing over his horn, he shook his head. "Not even a peep. Our slayers have been doing a lot of work to the beasties in our area, but regardless another night I make it through is another I praise Kronizeen. I wouldn't care to tangle with anything that goes bump in the night in these parts."
Bernard latched the horn onto his belt, testing his latch to make sure he could easily access it if the need arose. "Indeed, a single Morad or a damned Wraith could easily sneak straight up to the borders of the forest without tripping a single trap. Best I could do against one is hope to signal the alarm before I get devoured. With those happy thoughts go get some rest, and sweet dreams!"
"Ya, love you too buddy, I'll see you in hell." Bernard laughed as George walked away, waving his hand to dismiss the negative feelings in the air. Once he was out of sight, Bernard settled into an easy stance, one hand holding his spear by his side and the other within easy reach of the horn. If he had to use it however they would be having many other problems, as a multitude of slayers, traps, and lookouts were camped out or posted within a mile of their village. Suppressing a shiver, he hoped for what all men in his position did: an uneventful and boring shift.
Terav was a moderately sized village that held one advantage over the others scattered throughout the wilderness: it was much closer to the dense forest known as the Blackwood. To most, the Blackwood represented death. Many slayers, would be monster hunters and other foolish adventurers frequently entered the foreboding forest in search of rare monster materials, and other resources said to only be exist beyond the treeline. Many perished, but it only took one lucky expedition to come out rich and as such many groups banded together and camped in and around Terav while they prepared to enter. The main road that led through the buildings had many more doctors and medical areas designated than even some towns, for they received the wounded and the dead on a frequent basis. The residents didn't complain however, as the greatly increased number of humans present in the woods meant most monsters steered clear or were killed. The few that didn't still wreaked havoc, but in comparison to other villages out in the wilds they were at significantly less risk.
Snow lightly dusted the roofs and branches of the surrounding trees, casting the world in a myriad of sunbeam reflections. A young man stepped out of his small cottage near the outskirt of the wall surrounding Terav and stretched. Glancing around, bow slung over one shoulder and a quiver tucked behind his back, he began his march towards the gate exiting the village toward the Blackwood. Upon approaching the gate, Bernard glanced over to him and said a greeting.
"Morning Traven, how do you fare on this fine day?"
Giving him a small wave, Traven replied while approaching. "Not bad, not bad, just going out on a hopefully short hunting trip again. I should be back before sundown. If I'm not just assume a Wraith got me."
Bernard sighed. Traven was always the type to use dark humor. In their existence most people tried to stay moderately optimistic because if they didn't, they're world would be very bleak indeed. "I'll drag you back if I have to, don't go far. One of the slayers who passed by noted that the monsters are getting... restless for lack of a better word. They're wandering out of the Blackwood more frequently and for seemingly no reason. Watch your back out there."
He watched Traven trudge on by and immediately leave the beaten path breaking East, parallel to the Blackwood but not getting any closer. He offered a small prayer to Kronizeen for him before returning his watchful eye to the treeline.
Feeling only moderately guilty for lying to Bernard, Traven looped around the outskirt of Terav and kept to the sparse forest surrounding the village to stay out of sight of the other gate monitors. He had bagged plenty of game and even a lone wounded Morad for the village in recent times, so Bernard didn't doubt his words, but Traven had alternative motives for leaving the village so frequently. Saying he had a deathwish would be pushing it too far, but saying the dance with death he played every day wasn't intoxicating and more of a motive to stay alive than anything else would be alive.
Long ago he had learned that this world was a cruel and merciless place and he didn't place nearly as much value on his life as he should. He was sure Katrina and the few others who knew him would be sad if he lost his life, but nobody would be crippled without him. Banishing the dark thoughts from his head, he pushed on for his intended target. With Terav put behind him for the time being, he was safe to use the road again. He traveled North for several miles before breaking off the road again to the East. Finally reaching an icy cliff pockmarked with holes from his prior climbs, he got out his rope. Flattening out at about 30 feet in the air, it was a respectable height, but not out of reach from the lasso toss Traven put together. Latching onto the iron spike he had driven deep into the earth on his prior visit, he began ascending the cliff. All surrounding terrain was steeper and less than safe, leading him to his icy ascent as the best option to get to his destination.
Panting from the short but strenuous trip to the top, Traven took a moment to assess his surroundings. Behind him lay a beautiful sight as he saw right at the level of many trees in the forest, allowing him to see the rise and fall of the terrain and the small valley Terav resided in. He could just make out the wooden walls surrounding the village, but he was too far to make out any details. Turning about he faced a snowy, windy incline that led to an ominous rock outcropping, with several rocks protruding from the ground like teeth from a mouth, waiting to swallow him whole.
That was his final destination, Darklight cave. Few others had ventured inside and lived to tell the tale. Shortly after passing by the jutting rocks surrounding the entrance it the cave entered into a steep decline, eventually leading to a sprawling cave network and a mysterious pit. When he had first began exploring the cave, he had taken a torch and tossed it into the hole. The blackness swallowed the torch after several hundred feet and he was left in the dark. Much of his time outside the safety of the walls when not hunting was spent here. The pit represented adventure, mystery, and danger.
All things Traven was craving. He didn't have many ties to this world, no family to take care of, no loved ones to watch over. He didn't feel particularly close to anyone in the village, most people were content to survive. Traven didn't want survival - he would rather risk his life for adventure and LIVE. Truly live, not just exist. Shaking his head to clear away the distracting thoughts, he noticed he was already at the mouth of the cave.
Taking a deep breath and preparing a torch, he ignited his light source with a few strikes from his flint. There was no nearby natural sources of fuel besides some wet wood so he treasured the few torches he was carrying. Navigation into the inky blackness of the cave without a light source was impossible.
Traven prepared himself for a brief moment, offered a prayer to Kronizeen, and parted the shadows as he descended the first slope into Darklight cave.
Passing his prior markings indicating which twists and turns he needed to follow, Traven found himself approaching the pit. Much like the icy cliff, he had already begun preparations to descend into the sea of black, and just needed to stockpile enough rope without arousing suspicion from his fellow villages. Buying several hundred feet of rope was incredibly abnormal if all done at once.
Torch set aside, he swiftly tied his first rope to his anchor point and descended to the second. Traven had already set up about 150 ft of rope into the pit, and was now trying to finish the job and reach the bottom. He untied his anchor rope that allowed him to slide down the first section without falling to his death and retied it around the second section. If he let go of the rope or was wounded somehow his knot would swiftly tighten and prevent him from falling. If this happened however he would be stuck as he had no easy way of untying the rope once it was pulled taught, so he continued offering prayers that he wouldn't have to deal with such a situation. Traven reached his last anchor point and tied his recently purchased line of rope to it.
Hoping against hope that it would make it to the bottom, he cast it into the pit and watched it descend. It fell and didn't land on the ground, he could tell by the way it continued to swing in gentle arcs from the anchor point mounted to the small rock protrusion he currently rested on.
"Damn." While it wasn't the safest method he kept his light source with him by tying it to his foot with another rope on the bottom of the torch, then as he swung he could see below him and retrieve it when he landed. The rope was coated with fire resistant tree resin so a couple stray strikes by the torch wouldn't ignite it. Praying once again, he first cast his light into the void, then himself.
Swaying from the rope he slowly began his descent. Utilizing the methods he currently was, it was slow going since he had nothing at the bottom to stop him if he went too far. Traven began feeling every heartbeat resound throughout his body and the sounds of his own exertion echoed around him. In the dark with a light strapped to his foot he made easy prey for any predators that might call the deeper reaches of the cavern home, but after many explorations of the upper levels and parts of the pit, he never heard or sensed anything living beyond himself. Traven hoped this was true or else his demise would come before he could explore the bottom of the god-forsaken hole in the ground he was currently dangling in.
Letting out a grunt as he lowered himself further, his focus never slipped lest he lose his grip and fall to his death. A quick glance down indicated he was near the end of his rope. If he didn't find ground to land on he would have to try and find another rock outcrop large enough for him to stand on and set an anchor point to. Muscles straining, he finally heard something other than himself - the clank of wood meeting stone as his torch hit something, guttering from the unexpected contact. Looking down once more, he guessed the rope was within his reach if he jumped, and let himself drop the last few feet.
Traven let out a deep sigh of relief. Now the fun could really begin. Local superstition said the cave was home to a great evil that would consume the world if it was unleashed - but like most other stories, he simply didn't believe it. Magic existed, and monsters ruled most of the world, but nothing so great and powerful and Evil could truly exist. Nothing they encountered beyond the terrifying Drakul's could even line up with such a story. Before Traven was born a Drakul had risen from its home deep within the earth and rampaged for a single week, in that time it decimated multiple large cities, towns and villages. Few survived an encounter with such a monstrosity, but they stayed much much deeper underground than he currently was so he figured he was safe from an apocalyptic threat like that.
Sighing, Traven untied his torch and began examining the room he was now in. Above him was the straight shot up to the cave, and in front of him was the rocky outcrop forming the walls. Spying two different exits, he approached both and glanced inside with a light. One ended abruptly in what looked like a cave in of dirt and stone, the other made a steep curve right and continued on.
"Well I guess that makes my decision easy then. Onward I go..." His voice echoed slightly and he glanced around one last time before vanishing into the cavern entrance. Oddly enough the cavern never once branched off or entered into another cave system and he swore parts of the walls surrounding him looked like they were dug out by unnatural means. Whether a creature did it or some human thousands of years ago did it, he had no way of telling. After what felt like an eternity, the tunnel he seemed to be following finally tapered off, forcing him to squeeze through the last foot until he was deposited into a decent sized cavern, from what his torch lit up he could see a small waist height rock barrier and something peaking out from behind it.
Cautiously approaching he observed whatever it was didn't move and didn't seem to match the rock or stone around it. Rounding the corner of the barrier he flinched. Skeletal remains of a human were shackled to... Iron balls? It seemed as though someone had been locked down here and left to die. Stepping a bit closer, the torchlight illuminated a leatherbound journal. Approaching the final few feet Traven leaned over the skeleton to grab the book and see what he could learn but nearly jumped out of his boots when he accidentally bumped into the thighbone and jostled an arm off, falling straight into him.
Although Traven would never admit it, he screamed like a young girl for a brief moment before regaining his composure. He clapped his hand over his mouth and stopped to listen for any movement. There was only one way to get to where he was from the pit as far as he knew, but the path ahead remained a mystery. Hearing nothing but the rapid pounding of his heart, he grabbed the book and stepped away from the corpse. Books were rare, as the ability to process leather and the like meant you had enough resources to defend your village and had enough population to support the creation of such luxury items. Also you had someone old enough and learned enough to read and write. Such things were even rarer than the production of books, as that knowledge wasn't vital for humanities survival, and most things not directly tied to living another day on this harsh world were not a priority.
Traven was one of the lucky few - he wasn't originally from Terav, having grown up in a city where he had learned how to read to dictate letters his lord received, as learning to read was below the "nobility". He snorted at the thought. Nobles were all pigs and cold hearted bastards. Hence why he was now in a village, hunting and freezing his ass off instead of sitting in front of a stone hearth. Cracking open the journal, He read a name first.
"Reeve, huh? Interesting name. Lets see what secrets you hold for me." Spending the next 30 minutes reading in the dim torchlight, Traven glanced down to see how long he had before he was out of light. He was sure he could get out of the cave with no light it would just take a significant amount of time, something he desperately wished to avoid. He still had one full torch left, and one on its last breath that he was currently using. Igniting the last one with what was left of his current torch, he set the old on aside and finished reading the last of the journal.
"Who's there!" staring further back into the cave he swore he had heard a faint whisper. Hearing nothing further, he passed it off as his imagination.
"What sort of crazy bastard were you Reeve? You said you were infected and locked yourself down here? How did you even get those huge weights down here in the first place? And how the hell did you get down here to begin with?" Looking back there had been no climbing equipment or signs of any tools used to make it to the bottom of the pit at all. The journal implied something was very very wrong with Reeve. Multiple mentions of an "All consuming swarm" and "He would be the final and last -". Unable to make out what the last word, Traven had to assume he was referring to whatever he called his infected self. Based off the decomposition or complete lack of organic material left Reeve must have been down here for a very long time... long enough for any disease to die out at least.
Regaining some confidence, Traven decided to explore past the body a bit before turning around and heading home. He didn't think he would tell anyone about this discovery because they wouldn't give a single wit about the body or journal and would yell at him for wasting resources and risking his life. Traven wouldn't be able to blame them, but he did this for himself anyway, not the village.
Stepping further into the tunnel it didn't take him long to make another discovery. Casting his light along both sides of the walls, he nearly walked into a purple puddle of some unidentifiable substance. Exclaiming with shock once again, Traven crouched down to examine the substance. It was raised a solid 6 inches off the ground when compared to where the stone forming the tunnel floor was, implying it wasn't actually a liquid but more like some viscous substance that had settle here. When his torch came slightly too close it almost seemed to... creep backwards the tiniest amount. Once again shaking his head he simply assumed he was seeing things. Being in the dark cave too long made you a little mental. He tested it by poking it with the wood end of his torch. He found it surprisingly firm, with a slight layer of slightly sticky substance on the surface.
"Well, this is what I came here for. Adventure is just what you wanted Traven, so go on... Go adventure." Gathering courage, Traven stepped onto the purple substance with baited breath. When nothing happened after several seconds he took a second step.
"Okay... Lets do this." Slowly making his way to the back of the cave which he could almost see at the edge of his torchlight, the tunnel seemed to taper to an close. The purple substance could be seen creeping up the wall higher as he approached the end. One more surprise seemed to be waiting for him, a thick fleshy mound seemed to be latched to the wall. It was vaguely reminiscent of the one time he had seen a Zorath's cocoon. The large insectoid monster would wrap itself in a weave stronger than steel until it finished evolving into its final form.
Once again gathering his bravery he touched the cocoon-like object. Suddenly gasping for air as he felt his mind alight with fire - the world went blank for a brief moment as all he could do was focus on the pain. After a small eternity had seemed to pass Traven was released and he stumbled back from the strange pod straight onto his ass. Holding his now wet hands up he let out a "Eughhh" as he wiped them off on his pants. Refocusing on the important matters at hand, Traven realized he didn't feel quite right - something had tapped into his brain and he could feel it there, nestled and waiting for... something. He felt the ground shifting below him, the purple creeping substance seemed to be practically roiling as though it had come alive.
"I think its time I made a swift departure... Thanks purple cocoon for a strange experience but I must be leaving now" As he said his line he began standing and made to run back to the pit and escape this odd place. Before he could take a single step however he felt himself fall slightly and a new pressure form on his feet. Feeling the resistance as he tried to life his foot he looked down and swore. Officially naming it "Creep" because that's what it did all over the place and how it made him feel, was now completely covering his feet.
"There must always be... one..." Glancing around, he saw no one. The voice resounded in his head, and with a sinking feeling he realized he was being pulled towards the purple fleshy sac.
"No no no, whatever it is you want or think you're wrong, I, uh need to get home and make dinner for the family, you wouldn't want me to disappoint them right?" Joking as he was panic flooded his system as he strained against the creep to escape. The thick substance held strong against him, however, and when he was just a short couple of feet from the sac he finally gave in and realized he was completely at the mercy of... whatever had him. The cocoon, he realized, slowly opened. Before he could even react several fleshy tendrils snapped out and pulled him inside, then everything went black.