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Ian Plumb

"Chapter 18: A Dread Encounter" by Ian Plumb

SciFi/Fantasy text 18 out of 49 by Ian Plumb.      ←Previous - Next→
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The fate of the Tanais and her crew is determined at great cost.
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←- Chapter 17: A Tour of the Towers | Chapter 19: Whitespore Uncovered -→

Jacquemets knelt in the prow of the rowboat. Six Guardsmen behind him rowed cautiously. They'd muffled the oars in an attempt to row quietly. Nobody spoke. The village of Bluore had to be close by now.

There'd been no sign at all of the Tanais along the river and so they had entered the Fens tributaries making their way directly towards the village. A thick fog or marsh gas had appeared a few hundred yards into the swamp and it wasn't dissipating even though it neared midday. It felt unnatural and so they'd muffled the oars and talked in whispers.

They spotted a marker post on the edge of the village. It showed the water height in times of flood. The fog was so thick now that Jacquemets could barely see the back of the boat. They edged forward slowly. The air was fetid and warm, clinging to the skin. Jacquemets was sweating profusely. He peered into the gloom.

The rounded rear of the Tanais loomed out of the mist like a wall of wood. It was moored next to a jetty that protruded to the deepest point of the channel. There was absolute silence. Jacquemets stepped off the boat and onto the jetty. One of the Guardsmen tied the boat. Everyone drew their weapons and slowly made their way down the jetty.

A ramp led up to the Tanais. Jacquemets led four Guardsman up onto the Tanais but no signs of life could be found. They made their way back down onto the jetty. Nobody aboard the Tanais -- not that any further evidence was required, but clearly something had gone very wrong here in Bluore.

Jacquemets led his group silently into the village proper. Huts loomed out of the fog but were devoid of life. They cautiously made their way further into the village. The atmosphere was claustrophobic. After what seemed an eternity they found themselves on the other side of the village, where the animal pens were located. It was then that they heard the smallest sound of movement within the stable, like some kind of animal shifting its weight slightly in the straw.

Jacquemets signaled to his men to fan out a little. He then walked towards the main door of the stable. It wasn't locked. As silently as possible he drew the bolt, and then drew the door wide open. It was dark within, and with the fog very little light penetrated far into the stables. A whimper could be heard within, like that of a small terrified child.

Jacquemets advanced into the stable, sword at the ready, peering into the gloom. His eyes adjusted and he could make out bodies lying on the ground. Then he heard a small whisper -- "May the gods protect us." The voice carried no hope. Jacquemets strode across the stable towards the voice. Sous-Capitaine Odette lay on the ground naked.

"Odette!", Jacquemets exclaimed in a whisper. "We have come..."

Odette reached up and clamped his hand over Jacquemets' mouth fiercely. He drew Jacquemets' ear down to his mouth and whispered, "By all that is holy be silent. Sound attracts them. And when they come they feed." There was a fevered look in his eyes, a look of sheer terror.

Jacquemets whispered, "Then get everyone up and onto the Tanais. We are getting out of this place and we are getting out now!" As he said this there was a shout from the Guardsman outside the stable. Odette whimpered, "They are here."

Jacquemets leapt across to the stable door. Outside he could see that the fog was coalescing, thickening into shadowy forms. The ground erupted and bones leapt up into the shadowy forms. All manner of insects scurried up the bones and clung to them, forming macabre muscles. Fetid, decaying cloth ripped from the ground and covered the bodies, as did rusty armour and weapons. Horrified, Jacquemets turned and screamed into the stable, "Everybody up! Run for the jetty and get aboard the ship! Save yourselves!"

It was pandemonium. The villagers, or what was left of them, ran screaming from the stable. The Guardsmen formed a shield wall and Odette and what was left of the marines formed a wedge behind them, taking the Guardsmen's secondary weapons. Then they ran for the jetty.

The Champions of Chaos set about their work methodically. The villagers were running in all directions, trying to flee their wrath. They were largely unsuccessful. The creatures caught them and slew them. It was a terrible carnage.

Jacquemets led the way for his troop, at the point of the wedge. The creatures tried to bar their way but many of them pursued the villagers. They were able to maintain the momentum, using their shields to force a passage at a run. The fog had lessened, somehow absorbed into the Champions of Chaos, and they could see the jetty. Several villagers were already running down it and making their way up the gangplank and onto the Tanais.

As they made the deck of the ship their bodies were ripped asunder by something half seen. Then several Champions of Chaos made their way down the gang plank.

"What's that thing on the Tanais?!", yelled Jacquemets.

"No idea!", cried Odette, "But let's make for your rowboat."

The fighting on the jetty was fierce. The Champions of Chaos barring their way were strong and their bodies took blows that would fell a man without wavering. When they did finally expire they burst apart like a ruptured sausage. They soon found themselves facing attack from the landward side. Two Guardsmen fought a rearguard action while Jacquemets tried to break through the enemy line. When one of the Guardsmen at the rear fell a marine stepped into the breach. Naked, he managed to grab the fallen Guardsman's shield before he was struck. Soon he too fell. And then the second Guardsman. The marines were now in a desperate plight.

Jacquemets could hear the cries of fear behind him. Odette turned and rallied his men. The jetty was not wide -- two fighting men could hold it while four men could walk down it comfortably. Odette bellowed and charged between his men, launching himself at the pair of Champions of Chaos that were assaulting his men. While his men parried their blades he grappled them and carried them back along the jetty, over the Guardsman's bodies. His men followed up, grasping the shields, helmets, and swords of the slain Guardsman.

Odette sprang away from the pile of bodies while the Champions of Chaos slowly rose to their feet. They moved steadily, inexorably back into the fray.

At last Jacquemets reached the gang plank of the Tanais. Every inch had been hard fought. They pushed on, ignoring the lure of the Tanais. They soon reached the end of the jetty, the press of men pushing the last of the Champions of Chaos over the edge and into the water.

"Down into the boat!", yelled Odette to his remaining men. They piled in, manning four of the oars. The Guardsmen took the landward side, continuing the fight. In time Jacquemets ordered all but one other Gaurdsman aboard the row boat. They took the last two oar positions. Odette untied the rowboat and maoeuvered it to the end of the jetty.

"Jump aboard!", cried Odette. Jacquemets and his companion attempted to disengage and leap aboard the boat. As they did so Jacquemets was struck in the back and he was fortunate to be catapulted into the boat. The other Guardsman disengaged successfully and leapt for the boat. A dread hand reached up out of the water, grasped his ankle, and swiftly dragged him beneath the surface of the water in spite of the valiant efforts of the marines.

"Row you maggots!", cried Odette. "Stroke! Stroke! Stroke!"

Odette called a cracking pace though nobody needed further encouragement than what they'd just experienced. Bluore soon disappeared into the fog and silence though this day would remain vivid in their memories for many years.

Note: For explanations regarding the world in which this story is set, it's peoples and language please take a look at The Encyclopaedia of Everything located in my library.

←- Chapter 17: A Tour of the Towers | Chapter 19: Whitespore Uncovered -→

14 Aug 2008:-) Ian Plumb
Thanks for the comments Maxine. In writing a fantasy epic it is difficult to convey they impression that the main characters are in fact mortal and that their survival is not assured. In writing horror the difficulty I think is in conveying the impression that the foe is implacable, and powerful, but there are limits to its domain and power. In this piece I liked the idea that the mist that enveloped Bluore was in fact the non-corporeal form of the enemy. The scene where it coalesces and then things rip from the earth and join with it -- that was very clear in my mind’s eye. Also the creature on the Tanais, half-seen yet capable of shredding its victims. What else is there to do but run? Yet still their training holds and all realise that none will survive should they panic and attempt to flee. That’s heroism.
29 Oct 2008:-) Patricia M. DŽAngelo
Things are getting quite exciting. Evil walks from the mist, itself. The last line was the perfect cap to the chapter.

Bluore soon disappeared into the fog and silence though this day would remain vivid in their memories for many years.

To heighten the excitement of your sentences, it might help to search out ’was’ and replace it with a stronger verb. I still have difficulty with that in my own writing, but I do try to catch myself.

The air was fetid and warm, clinging to the skin.
(example) Fetid and warm, the saturated air clung to the skin.

Jacquemets was sweating profusely. He peered into the gloom.
(example) Sweating profusely, Jacquemets peered into the gloom.

There was absolute silence.
(example) Absolute silence haunted the air. or Silence, eerie and absolute, blanketed the air.

As he said this there was a shout from the Guardsman outside the stable.
(example) As he said this, a shout rang out from the Guardsman outside the stable.

The action is heating up and this chapter has me wanting more.

:-) Ian Plumb replies: "Wow, great feedback! Many thanks.
I wasn’t certain you’d like this chapter. I think it is quite different to the other chapters. It is also vivid in its portrayal of the horror and violence -- not to everyone’s tastes.
Absolutely agree with what you’re saying. I also really like the re-wordings -- vivid stuff!
Many thanks for stopping by!"
18 Nov 2008:-) Heidi Hecht
You don’t really need to say "they muffled their oars" twice in the first two paragraphs. The Champions of Chaos sure are creepy. They come off as better suited for a horror movie than a High-Fantasy-type story. Very vivid descriptions though it’s obvious you toned it down for Elfwood’s PG-13 rating limit.

:-) Ian Plumb replies: "Thanks for the feedback Heidi!
The objective of this piece was to step out of the fantasy genre and into the horror genre. I’d never written a horror piece before this attempt (and probably never will again!). The events in this chapter never occurred in the game -- back in Macon we simply became aware that Odette and the Tanais never returned from the marsh communities and so Jacquemets was sent to investigate. He eventually returned and briefly described meeting the enemy in Bluore."
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'Chapter 18: A Dread Encounter':
 • Created by: :-) Ian Plumb
 • Copyright: ©Ian Plumb. All rights reserved!

 • Keywords: Bluore, Jacquemets, Odette, Tanais
 • Categories: Elf / Elves, Fights, Duels, Battles, Ghosts, Ghouls, Aparitions, Warrior, Fighter, Mercenary, Knights, Paladins, Wizards, Priests, Druids, Sorcerers..., Dwarf, Dwarves
 • Views: 437

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Chapter 17: A Tour of the Towers
Chapter 38: The Prince Arrives
Chapter 13: The Shadow Plane
Chapter 33: Charlia smiles upon the Tour
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