Excerpt from The Amazing Adventures of Sascha Kampucha El–Lee and his Travels in the Year Three Hundred and Ninety-Three After the Time of Troubles: Voyage of Discovery -- Comprising the Details and Revelations Therein. With an Account of Numerous Astounding Discoveries and Inventions. Compiled with Copious Notes from The Reverend Sister Faye.
…And so ends my adventures with the Storm Riders. My next chapter will deal with the strange people of the Fray Zer Valley (1), known by many here as the Lheidli T'enneh people (2).
My destination is Fort Gorge (3), the self-proclaimed “Jewel of Bre-teesh Colum” (4). It lies at the confluence of several rivers and is surrounded on several sides by large mountain ranges. The valley itself is relatively quite flat and is several hundred miles long; indeed one of the rivers travels all the way down to the city of Von Koover (5), where, the reader may remember, I spent two weeks and which the adventures I experienced therein can be read in Chapter Nine of this Volume. Because of this, the entire region is considered a natural cross-roads for all the peoples in the region for hundreds of miles in every direction. Fort Gorge, of course, has taken advantage of this most auspicious set of circumstances and is now a bustling city of over 10,000. In addition, rumour has it that they know, or at least have somewhat more accurate information than most, about the mysterious Dominate of the Ada-Baska that are said to exist in the Kandian Wastes beyond the Rock Mountains (6)
But to get there from Prinze Ruburt will require a difficult journey. I will be required to follow a circuitous path of some 600 miles that snakes through numerous small valleys, canyons and river banks of the many mountains and hills of the Coast Mountains. Fortunately, the path is well-marked - it is said that the path was built on the remnants of a road built by the Ancients known as the ‘Yellow Way’ (7) – and there are numerous small villages along the way. The letters from Chief Aglakti ben Joseph shall grant me food, drink and shelter and despite the fact that Fort Gorge has, as yet, not signed a formal alliance with the Storm Riders, they are on quite cordial terms.
I took a boat from the island that Prinze Ruburt is located on across the short distance to the mainland, where a guide awaited me. He gave his name as Ranjit Gosztonyi Dhaliwal-Moore but prefers the name ‘Ran’. We have horses, provisions, tents and various other supplies. Ran has four more guides/hunters meet us a few minutes later – although I have no idea if they are friends, relatives, or village-mates of his and to this day, I still do not know – that Ran assured me ‘are the best’ in the area.
After haggling over the price, we set out, little knowing the adventures – and horrors – that awaited us.
The road, while twisting and narrow in most places, was indeed very well marked and maintained. Although rocks and mudslides blocked the route on occasion, we were able to get around the blockages. Despite the many delays brought on by the road conditions, the cold and rainy weather and even the occasional blast of winter air that blows from the north, we were making good time and I estimate that we were travelling about fifty or sixty miles per day.
It was on the third night after we had set out that the first indications of what were to befall us appeared.
The previous day, we had made nightfall in a small village by the name of Terrace (8), named after the many bench-like terraces that surround the village on many sides. Despite the damp cold of this entire region, the forests along the river we were travelling are surprisingly quite lush and vibrant, with several hot springs that I and the guides availed ourselves of. The local Elder of the village, upon seeing the letters of introduction I carried, was more than happy to shelter us for the night. As we left, he gave us several bottles of a local alcoholic drink – made from berries, if I recall correctly – that I and Ran were quite eager to try. Ran’s companions managed to catch several small birds and even a rabbit along the way, so when we settled at nightfall we were prepared to have quite the feast.
We had just finished cooking the game and opened the bottle when I heard a horrendous howl off in the distance. Instantly, Ran and the others leaped to their feet, weapons ready.
The howling went on for several minutes, echoing oddly in the mountains and valleys around us. I am not ashamed to say that I was overcome with a terrible shaking. Never had I heard such accursed howling as this! Not even the howling of the Hordling pack I had the misfortune to have to outrun in the Wenatch Woods (9) was this terrifying!
I heard mutterings from Ran’s companions. They were speaking a language that I was unfamiliar with but one word kept being repeated over and over again.
Ran silenced them with a shout and the men – with some reluctance – nodded their heads and took stations around our campsite, their weapons at the ready. They appeared to be clearly nervous, which was a matter of some concern to me. They were armed with rifle muskets, which I have heard can hit a man-sized target from hundreds of yards away and which I personally have seen kill a small deer from 400 feet away. These men had never shown any fear before and were accomplished hunters; and yet, here they were, armed with weapons that can kill nearly any of the creatures in these forests with just one shot and they appear to be terrified.
The howling – mercifully – came to an end and I saw the men visibly relax.
But not completely. They still wander around the perimeter of the camp, muttering to themselves quietly. When I pulled Ran aside and asked him what manner of beast we heard, he brushed me aside.
“Children’s tales! No more!” said Ran, impatiently. “They are said to haunt these mountains but no one has seen a trace of them since my father’s time!”
“But clearly – we heard something! What was it?”
“Bah!” shouted Ran. “Wolves. No more than that! Now go to sleep!”
I knew that Ran was lying – clearly the sounds I heard was not a wolf – but it was obvious that he did not wish to continue the discussion. The others were, if anything, even more tight-lipped and refused to even acknowledge my questioning.
In the end, wine and fatigue took its toll on my body and I had just enough strength to write this entry before lying down to sleep shortly after moonset.
I thank whatever merciful God may exist that I am still alive to write this entry.
I will try to piece together the events of the last day.
Some time after I fell asleep, I was awakened by a terrible commotion. I opened my eyes to a scene that still makes my blood run cold.
A mere twenty or thirty yards away, illuminated by the dying flames of our campfire, was a monstrous figure out of a nightmare! It was two – nay! – three times the height of a man and covered with matted fur from head to foot! Its eyes blazed with an unholy red light and I could clearly see its long, yellowed canine teeth as it howled and shrieked! But what struck me – even in my terrified paralysis – was its tongue. It reached to its mid-chest!
Ran’s companions were firing their guns at the beast – indeed, it was this noise that had awakened me – but the beast was shrugging off the bullets as if they were nothing more than insect bites!
Now shrieking so loudly than my ears actually felt that they were to burst, the beast swung a sapling the size of a man about as a club! The tree slammed into one of the men and flung him thirty feet to the side! Another swing came crashing down on the head of a second man and I saw his skull split open like a melon! Finally a third swing caught yet another man square in the chest – and the man flew head over heels towards me! With a terrible crash, the man slammed into me and I fell to the ground, hitting my head on some rocks. As my eyesight began to fade, I recalled seeing Ran running away from the campsite and into the woods.
And then my vision blacked out completely.
How long I was unconscious, I can not tell. Hours certainly. When I came to, I awoke in near darkness to find myself in a cave of some sort. I stretched out my arms to feel what was around me – and then yanked back my arms in alarm!
Lying less than ten feet away from, stacked like cordwood, were the men!
As my eyes slowly became accustomed to the darkness, I could see that each of the men had been horribly beaten – no doubt by the sapling that the beast had used as a club. Lying at my feet, I observed what I initially thought to be a pile of skins and furs but which I realized a few moments later to be an immense sack instead. The sack was gigantic – easily ten feet wide – and to my untrained eye, it seemed to be a crudely made from the skins of deer, cattle and even – and here I gasped in amazement – even full grown bears! All of the skins were crudely stitched together with sinews and ligaments. The sack – while obviously made by primitive hands – was nevertheless frightening in its implications, as it meant that the beast that had attacked us had some traces of intellect.
No simple ‘wild beast’ is intelligent enough to make a sack to carry its meals home to its lair.
Was I to become part of some stew for the beast?
Clearly the beast, after attacking our camp, had collected all of us into a sack. It presumably thought I was dead like the others rather than merely unconscious.
As my eyes became further accustomed to the gloom, I realized that there were only four men in the pile. And Ran was not among them!
My heart leaped for joy as I recalled my last thoughts during the attack. Did Ran manage to get away? Was he even now tracking the beast back to its lair? Was rescue imminent? I daresay that for several moments my spirits were raised. Blinking in confusion at the darkness, I took a few hesitant steps forward in order to better ascertain my location – and then I tripped over something. Thinking that I had stumbled on a log, I looked down –and my heart sank.
I had found Ran. Or more precisely – what was left of him. His torso and head was still intact. But his arms and legs had been torn off!
I realized that I needed to escape. It was at that point that I realized that my backpack – in which I had carried this journal and various other objects and specimens that I have collected in my travels – was lying near Ran’s body. Indeed, a huge collection of sacks and bags – most from our campsite but several that were unfamiliar to me – were scattered about the ground. Clearly the beast was familiar enough with travellers to understand the benefits in collecting these supplies for its own use.
I listened carefully, half expecting to hear the beast rise out of the gloom to attack me! Instead, I heard silence. Off in the distance, I thought – or perhaps imagined – that I saw some light. Perhaps the way out from this accursed cave?
I picked up my knapsack and checked to see if this journal and my specimen jars were intact. They were, so I spent a very brief moment rummaging around the other sacks looking for useful supplies and equipment. Except for a few blankets, a handful of beef jerky and a small dagger, the supplies were of little immediate use to me. Nevertheless, I stuffed these objects into my backpack and, with trembling hands, clasped the dagger in my hand.
As I took some steps forward, the light flickered, as if an immense shadow had passed.
I turned and ran towards the back of the cave. I wish I was able to say that I had a brilliant tactical plan to defeat the beast or that I had developed an escape from this terror I had found myself in. I wish I were able to say any of that.
But the truth is simple: I ran because I was scared, frightened as a small child confronted by terrors of the night.
As it was – it was good that I ran, as the beast howled in anger and the very walls shook and rumbled!
As I ran to the back, I noticed that the walls became somewhat narrower and angled downwards. Good! Perhaps I could crawl myself into some small recess out of reach of the beast that was, even now, growling and howling at my heels!
In my haste, I slipped – and then began to slide down into the depths of the cave! For one brief terrifying moment, I felt the Wendigo’s fingers clasp the hair on my head!
And then I slid, screaming, into the darkness…
Once again, I awoke in darkness.
But, this time, it was not complete darkness.
Despite the fact that nearly every muscle and bone in my body screamed in agony, I was cogent enough to realize that a soft illumination – like that of several lanterns – could be seen off in the distance.
As I stumbled and staggered towards the lights, picking up the dagger that had fallen from my grasp, I began to take in more details about the cave I found myself in.
The cave was…not natural. This I became aware almost instantly. It appeared cut into the very rock itself, with the walls, ceiling and even the floor itself flat and smooth. Here and there in the ceiling of the cave (?) were several small recesses. Many of these were dark and empty. But several of them had small glass vessels that shone with a soft and, dare I say, almost tranquil light. They had vague similarities with the lamps that the Storm Riders possessed but even a moment’s glance confirmed that these lamps were far more sophisticated and powerful than anything I had ever seen before in all my travels.
I glanced behind me – and noticed that a small hole had formed in the ceiling of the corridor. It was this hole that I no doubt had fallen through. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized that the hole was barely large enough to have my small frame fit through – which meant that the Wendigo could not possibly follow me through that egress into this...place.
As I walked forward, I passed a large mural of some sort that can still faintly be seen on the wall. It read thusly:
Babine Mountains Genetic Research Facility
Despite my knowledge of the Ancient tongue, I knew not what the words ‘genetic research’ meant at the time, although my previous studies of the Ancients made numerous references to the Ancients’ ability to perform all manner of wondrous experiments on all manner of living and non-living things.
‘Babine Mountains’? According to the maps that Ran had when we set out, there was a ‘Babin Lake’ – “One of the biggest lakes in all Bre-teesh Colum!” according to Ran – that was located about fifty or sixty miles due east of our last campsite. It was far off the path of the ‘Yellow Way’ but, if these ‘Babine Mountains’ are in the same general area as ‘Babin Lake’, then I at least have a reference point to work with.
Now – if I can only find my way out of this accursed place…
As I continued walking, I began to note that more and more of the ‘lamps’ were lit, until I turned a corner and found myself in a long corridor that was simply ablaze with light!
Inset here and there along the length of the corridor were numerous closed doors. All of the doors were locked and yet I could not see any locks, although many of them had strange square or rectangular projections next to them with the words ‘Place ID here’.
If these were indeed some strange locks of some sort, then they were most certainly the queerest looking locks I’ve ever seen!
The entire corridor was dusty and smelled…old. As if it had seen little or no use for many months or years.
Or perhaps even centuries?
Could it be that I had found an abandoned Ancient city? We have numerous legends and stories of the Ancients building many of their homes and businesses and places of government underground. I myself, as the reader will recall from chapter seven of this journal, explored the ‘vaults’ beneath Por-lan (10). There are even a smattering of legends of ‘bunkers’ and ‘installations’ and ‘missile bases’ that were said to exist – and according to some – still exist to this day.
As I walked forward, I thought I heard what sounded to my ears as distant footsteps. At first I thought that they were my own, echoing strangely among this place. But then I realized that they were not!
Someone else was here as well!
Clutching my dagger in mounting terror and false bravado, I took several steps forward and turned a corner –
--and came face to face with several creatures!
They came at me in a rush and I felt my dagger fly out of my hand! I shouted once or twice in alarm – and then felt the fists hit my head! My vision was obscured by the second punch. By the fourth punch I was unable to focus on anything except the pain. By the sixth punch, I lost consciousness…
Once more, I awoke in darkness.
I was alone in a room, my backpack lying on the floor.
I slowly stood up, cringing in pain as the fresh bruises and injuries I had sustained made themselves known. As consciousness slowly steeped into my mind, the door suddenly swung open, bringing in a bright light that caused my eyes to involuntarily shut. As my eyesight slowly resolved, I saw before me two figures the likes of which I have never seen!
They were human. Or more precisely, they were from human stock once.
Now – they were something altogether different. They were not like the pathetic mutants that I have seen that bring about sadness and pity and anger at what had been wrought to mankind by the Troubles. No! This was something far more insidious.
Their skulls sloped back so abruptly that they could hardly be said to have a forehead at all; their chins slanted off right into nothing. Their queer narrow heads with flat noses and bulgy eyes were most disconcerting to view. Aye – their eyes! Their eyes were small and round with shallow, glazed, pink-yellow pupils, and they were set wide apart on their heads, and they were unwinking and staring, like a fish's eyes.
Clearly these weren’t mutants but rather the products of generations upon generations of inbreeding and incestuous matings!
I took a step back, terrified that they had come to beat me – or worse. Instead, they bowed and smiled and motioned me to leave the room and follow them. I proceeded to do so. Did I have a choice?
As I followed the two of them through more and more twisting corridors, we were slowly joined by additional individuals – both male and female. Although there were differences among them, all of them shared the same degree of corruption as my companions. Within a matter of ten minutes, there were at least a dozen with me.
The corridors were much the same as before; numerous rooms that seemed to be closed (although several of them were indeed open; brief glimpses of what appeared to be sleeping quarters and the like could be seen). At one point we entered a large room that had numerous plants – most of them obvious foodcrops – growing in large boxes filled with dirt and a thick sludge – the smell alone confirmed that the sludge was manure and garbage. The room was immense! At least 50 paces long and half that in width. The crops were tended by a small army of individuals similar in appearance to my ‘guard’. They stared at me, unblinking, for several seconds before going back to their tasks.
Eventually, we entered a large meeting hall of some sort. The meeting hall was, at a guess, at least twice the size of the ‘farm’ that I had passed earlier.
We were not alone. There were at least one hundred – if not more – individuals waiting for us in the hall. Standing on a small platform in front of them was a male individual. This individual was somewhat less corrupted than the others but not by much. Obviously, this individual was the leader of this group.
The ‘leader’ looked down upon me – and smiled.
“A visitor from the Outside!” shouted the man, in an archaic tongue of English. “A visitor!” he repeated, this time passing his gaze among the gathered brethren. “Visitor!” murmured the rest, almost like a choral chant. The main turned his gaze at me. “What is your name?” he shouted. “And from where you call home?”
I licked my lips and swallowed the lump in my throat and shouted “Sascha Kampucha El–Lee”. The leader and figures stared at me uncomprehendingly. Clearly, this name was most unusual to their ears. “But you may call me – Sascha. And I call home the Kingdom of Sunny Valley.” (11)
This met with the leader’s approval, who nodded. “And you may address me as Chief Tek-Nee-Sheen, leader of the Tek-Nee-Sheen people. My true name is of no importance to you. What brings you here, Sascha of Sunny Valley?”
“I am a traveller. I fell into this place while escaping from the Wendigo.”
That name brought forth such a reaction that I cringed in fear, thinking that I had offended the people in some manner! The collected Tek-Nee-Sheen people howled and hissed and shrieked at the name! It took several moments for the Chief to silence them. Even then, I could clearly see that they were still quite agitated.
“You ran afoul of the most foul of beasts! We Tek-Nee-Sheens curse that name! And the name of their makers!”
At this, the group began to hiss again, requiring several more moments to quiet them. I saw an opportunity to learn more about this situation and took it.
“With great respect, oh Great Chief, may I humbly ask for the story behind your great hatred for the beasts? And their makers?”
The Chief smiled and nodded. I have learned from previous experiences in my travels that such words as I had spoken are invaluable in loosening tongues, quieting unrest and gathering information. This time was no different. The Chief began to speak, and he spoke thusly:
“Many generations ago, we Tek-Nee-Sheens lived in harmony with our companions, the Zi-Ent-Tists. We assisted them in their great works and discoveries and we were happy. And then the Great Breaking occurred. We lost contact with our leaders and masters and companions and much confusion reigned. The Outside was poisoned! Death awaited all those that left this place! And so – we decided to remain here until the Death passed.”
I noticed that the gathered crowd were swaying and softly humming; clearly these words were heard often by them, as if they were listening to a sermon made by a cleric.
“But confusion and discord and chaos came into our home! The Zi-Ent-Tists became corrupted! Evil! They turned their minds not to the white Research but to the black Research of most foul and corrupt subjects! They performed experiments on not only themselves but also us Tek-Nee-Sheens!”
Gasps and shouts could be heard from the crowd, as a terrible wailing began to be made with their lips.
“We fought back! Tried to destroy them! But they were too strong to be destroyed!”
The wailing began to rise in volume.
“But they were hurt! Pushed back! Driven away!”
The crowd began to applaud and clap.
“We drove them away! Into the underground levels! And there they have stayed since then! For uncounted generations!”
A great cheer arose from over a hundred throats.
“But they are still a threat. They still perform their unholy experiments! They still attempt to capture us! And yes – we have seen their greatest of evils – the Wendigo!”
Gasps from the crowd. They began to wail again.
“But we prevail! We survive! And we will win one day!”
And the crowd cheered.
I write these thoughts in my room again. After the story was concluded, the Chief interrogated me for sometime. I was careful not to give him too much information about myself and what I have seen and done and kept my responses as simple as possible, due to the Chief’s obviously limited intellect. Nevertheless, he still seemed very confused by many of my responses. However, he seemed satisfied with them, as I sit here with no guard and a large plateful of food and pitcher of water.
I interrogated the Chief and a few of the Tek-Nee-Sheens in turn. The information I’ve obtained is limited but still rather intriguing. They have never seen the outside, although there are numerous ‘holes’ (much like the hole I fell through, no doubt) that allow sunlight and ‘cold white water’ (snow?) and even the occasional small animal to enter the complex. Clearly the complex is beginning to fall apart, although given the relative intact state of the complex after all these centuries, I feel that the Tek-Nee-Sheens need not worry for some time. The lights are all run by a ‘wondrous power’ that operates by ‘GeeOhTermal’ and ‘Hydro’ machinery that still exists to this day, tended by a small team of ‘En-gee-ers’, which are revered as ‘holy workers’.
I have asked the Chief if he can take me to these holes so that I can escape from this place. He has not yet given me a response and I dare not wander around the complex on my own. I may not be under guard but these Tek-Nee-Sheens still look upon me in fear and confusion and, while I appear to be considered a friend for the moment, one small misstep or error on my part can change all that in an instant.
These ‘Zi-Ent-Tists’ intrigue me. Clearly they are or rather – were – scholars like myself, but their ‘fall’ and hints of ‘foul experiments’ give me pause. Nevertheless, I find them intriguing.
For the moment, I shall stay here and partake in their hospitality and see if I can learn more.
Be careful what one wishes for.
I have heard that spoken as a curse in my travels and now I am aware of the meaning of that statement.
After three days where I was left much to my own devices and fed quite well but, alas, gathered little new information about this place than I knew before, the Chief decided that my request to be taken ‘Outside’ would be granted. None of the Tek-Nee-Sheens expressed any wish to go more than a few feet outside of the complex proper but they did agree to take me to an area of the complex that had a small fissure in the side of one wall. They told me that fresh air, ‘cold white water’ and even small rodents (considered a delicacy among these people) frequently come out of this fissure, so I am certain that it leads outside. The fissure is apparently on the other side of the complex, far from the core area where many of the Tek-Nee-Sheens live, so I was to have a force of half a dozen guards lead me there.
Alas, as we were almost to our destination, a terrible wailing sound was heard. As the guards brought up their weapons and hooted and hollered, a huge hairy figure some 6 feet tall erupted from a side corridor!
This one was quite small in size compared to the beast I had the misfortune to meet earlier but it was no less powerful. In a matter of a few seconds, three of my guards were slain – their heads dashed open! – and the other three turned and ran, shouting and raising the alarm. The beast paused as it saw me – clearly it too was unfamiliar with my presence – and before I could react, it grasped me in its arms and carried me off, dragging one of the slain guards behind it as it did so!
I am not ashamed to admit that I fainted from the horror and stress of the event.
When I came to, I found myself on a bed. A bed with such wondrously soft mattresses and sheets that I thought, for one moment, that I was dreaming.
Alas, it turned out that I was in a nightmare instead.
For as I opened my eyes, I saw before a figure of such hideous visage that I shrieked in terror as a small kid!
Unlike the Tek-Nee-Sheens, this figure was far more monstrously corrupted. Foul looking clumps of flesh and growths and bone could be seen all over its – his? - face and body. Its head was hairless – a fact that I wish was not the case – as the head clearly had what appeared to be masses of brain tissues growing outside the skull!
And then – the figure smiled.
“Come now, I don’t look quite that hideous now, do I – Sascha.”
And then the figure giggled.
“Welcome to the realm of the Scientists,” he said, still giggling.
It was with great trepidation that I pulled myself from that bed and followed the figure as he motioned me to follow. I had no wish to do so but he was most persuasive - especially when a six foot high Wendigo appeared next to him and growled at me when I was too slow in moving.
We went through the corridors, the man some distance ahead of me and the Wendigo behind me. The corridors were similar in many respects to that of the Tek-Nee-Sheens – but this area appeared to my untrained eyes to be somewhat more sturdy, somewhat less developed, somewhat more – new?
We walked through a room – and I, once again, shrieked in terror as a small child!
Along one wall were what appeared to be a row of immense glass bottles – each the height of a man! Within each ‘bottle’ – Wendigos! But not full-grown ones or even man sized ones! These were of various sizes from that of an infant to one almost, but quite, half my size. The beasts were floating in some kind of strange amber fluid, seemingly asleep! And yet, how did the creatures managed to stay alive despite being immersed in fluid? Could they breathe underwater? Or were the strange attachments that the beasts were connected to have some importance in this?
I had but a few moments to observe all this as the Wendigo rudely pushed me forward. With great reluctance, I continued onwards.
Presently I came into yet another large room. Here there was an immense pit set in the floor. I heard the sounds of loud howls and shrieks and screaming. As we continued forward, I risked a quick glance into the pit.
There, in the pit, were three Wendigos, each about half my size! They were battling one another, seemingly attempting to tear one another to bits! One of them had already met its gruesome fate and was even now lying at the bottom of the pit in a pool of blood.
My host (?) smiled as he saw my face. He giggled once again.
“Only the strong can survive,” he said, mysteriously.
As I walked, I passed through a smaller room. Here and there were various tables and workbenches.
But lying on top of them were corpses of various forest animals, farm animals and – here I gasped out loud – the corpse of one of the Tek-Nee-Sheens!
All of the bodies – including that of the Tek-Nee-Sheen – were sliced open, their very organs collected in various jars and containers!
I must admit that I was hesitant to continue – but the Wendigo behind me slammed a hand into my back which nearly knocked me off my feet. Sighing heavily and trying with limited success not to vomit at the scene around me, I continued onwards.
After a few moments, we arrived in another room. This room had a semi-circular table facing us. Seated at the table were about a dozen other individuals – each looking as corrupted and foul as my ‘host’.
My host bowed and took a few steps to the side while the Wendigo was waved away. The individuals at the table - council? -nodded their heads and stared at me, smiling. The woman (?) at the head of the table waved a hand, motioning me to take a seat. As I did so, she spoke.
“So – Sascha. You are an outsider, no?”
I simply nodded my head, too stunned and confused to think clearly.
The man next to the woman smiled and nodded his head. “We have read your most interesting volume. Most impressive, for a primitive!”. With that, the figure produced my knapsack, offering it to me.
I eagerly accepted it and looked inside it, making sure that my journal and my collections were still there.
“Now, now Sascha,” scolded the woman from earlier. “That’s not very polite. We may be …different … from you but we are not thieves!” The woman found this to be most amusing and began to laugh. Her companions joined her a moment later.
I much preferred them not to laugh, as that laugh was unlike any laugh made by a human throat!
Eventually they stopped laughing.
“You have questions?” asked the man next to the woman.
I shrugged my shoulders. I was not certain if they were merely playing games with me or being sincere.
Nevertheless, if they were willing to answer questions…
“You do know how the Tek-Nee-Sheens see you? They believe you to be monsters, partaking in foul and un-natural experiments.”
“Bah!” yelled the woman. “They are inbred pathetic fools! They have no concept whatsoever of the importance of our work!”
“And,” said the man next to her, “they probably have, no doubt, corrupted the story of what really happened that day of the revolt.”
I blinked in confusion at that. There was something odd about the way that was spoken - the sheer certainty - that brought chills to my spine…
“And you know for a fact the true story about what happened that day?” I asked. “Your records are much more accurate than theirs?”
This last sentence brought another round of laughter from them. The laugh went on altogether too long for my comfort and peace of mind.
When they finally did stop laughing, it was the man who spoke.
“Of course our records are much more accurate,” he said. He smiled. It was a smile that froze my blood and tore my soul – for no true human can possibly smile such a cold and inhuman smile.
“We were there when it happened,” said the man.
And the gathered council members laughed.
They must have noticed the look of sheer horror and confusion and terror on my face. Eventually, they began to stop laughing once more. The man motioned me to speak.
My thoughts were all jumbled and I was uncertain even what to ask. Eventually, one thought came to mind and I spoke it.
“You are all five centuries old?” I shouted.
The man nodded.
“Oh, don’t be so surprised. Surely you must have heard stories that the…Ancients? … were capable of great feats, hmmm? Surely one of those stories was their ability to recover from severe injuries that would kill your people and live much longer lives than your brethren can?”
I could only nod my head in silence.
The man smiled. “Those stories were correct – but we were unable to achieve the most holy of goals. Immortality itself!” The man smiled again. “At least, the rest of the world was unable to.” The man gave a short laugh, one that was taken up by his companions. “We managed to discover the secrets during the Last Days. When the world ended, we decided to take the treatment, so that we may continue our life’s work.”
And here the man paused as he slowly dragged a hand across his misshaped head. “There were, of course, a few…side-effects.” He shook his head and smiled again. “But what are a few side-effects in exchange for living forever!”
I could only nod my head, so overcome with revulsion and terror was I!
“But what of the Wendigo?” I asked. “Why do you create so many of them? What are you doing with all the corpses?”
This time it was the woman who spoke.
“Surely you as a scholar are familiar with the concept of collecting specimens for study?”
I was overcome with anger, an anger that blazed as a Sun within me.
“You have no right! You are using living people as nothing more than toys and tools for your own personal use!”
The woman smiled. “So says the man who has twenty-seven jars of animal and plant specimens in his backpack. How would they see you, hmmm?”
I was going to make a retort to that and then realized the futility of it; how can one reason with clearly insane individuals corrupted in mind and body and yet are convinced of their superiority?
I decided to ask a different question.
“Why are you telling me all this? What are you planning to do with me?”
Now it was the man’s turn to speak.
“You are a scientist. True, a scientist forced to work in primitive and barbaric conditions but nevertheless, a scientist. Your journal proves this. You have also explored many thousands of square kilometres of the Outside beyond this valley and are a wealth of information on many of the societies and nations that now exist. Our knowledge of what has happened since the End is fragmentary at best.”
Now the woman spoke.
“But that will no longer be the case. With your knowledge of the outside world and your assistance, we will be able to gather even more specimens for research purposes.” The woman smiled. “Oh, how I so look forward to doing studies on this ‘Orange Death’ you speak of. And these ‘Frenzies’ that haunt the southern parts of your home kingdom – oh, I’m certain we can do something intriguing with them.”
“What if I refuse to help?” I shouted.
The woman shrugged her shoulders.
“Then we’ll simply remove your brain and extract the information we need from it.” She indicated her companion with a nod of her head. “My friend here has made some amazing breakthroughs in neural analysis in recent years but has been stymied by a lack of useful research subjects. You will be able to assist him in this endeavour so think of it as achieving a sense of…immortality.” And here she began to giggle again. After a few seconds, she continued. “In fact, I think we’ll do that anyway.” And here she snapped her fingers.
With that, the previous ‘host’ who had led me here stood next to me and the Wendigo appeared at my back.
“Take him to room 14.”
My host nodded his head and motioned me to move. When I hesitated, the Wendigo clasped my shoulder most forcibly and physically pushed me onwards.
Once again, we passed through the Room of Horrors where the corpses I saw earlier were laid out. Now I could see that various Scientists were working on the bodies or collected organs, performing who knows what hideous experiments! Then we passed by the Pit of Wendigos. Here I could see that only one Wendigo was alive, albeit bloody and injured. It was being led away by several more Scientists. Then we entered the Wendigo Creation room. I took this opportunity to examine the creatures in the glass vessels more closely.
It was but a brief glance but my glance was able to see something that I missed earlier. There were various ‘pins’ or ‘nails’ of some sort that could clearly be seen implanted in the temples of the creatures. Intrigued, I turned to my host, in a vain hope that perhaps he will answer a few questions before my demise.
“What do those devices do?” I asked, indicating the temple ‘nails’. My host came to a stop and smirked. I paused as well. “Conditioning of course,” he replied. At my obvious look of confusion, the man laughed. “We implant certain drives and needs into their minds so that they will obey our commands without question. A most elegant and wise precaution, hmmm? The Pit further enhances that conditioning.”
That intrigued me but I still had further questions. “So the Wendigo that attacked me outside – that one was following orders as well?”
Given the reaction of the man, I clearly had asked a question that was uncomfortable to answer. He quickly recovered, however, and seemed to shrug off the question as if it was a minor irritant. “As they get older, the conditioning begins to wear off and they go rogue. They become too unstable and dangerous to be used for our purposes. No matter. The side-effects of the conditioning slowly drives them homicidally insane and they end up killing themselves eventually, so the problem resolves itself. Now go!”
And with that the Wendigo slammed its hand into my back. I stumbled and fell forward, my flaying hands reaching out for support to break my fall. As I did so, my hand managed – by some sheer Act of Providence – to clasp an odd looking black rope of some sort. The material covering the rope was vaguely familiar – in my fevered and terrified mind I flashbacked to some pieces of plazteek I have had the opportunity to examine in my travels – and with the strength born of terror and fear, I clasped the rope.
The Wendigo reached down to lift me up and I, in my terror, tore the rope from its moorings in the floor. Incredibly, the end of the rope crackled with lightning! The Wendigo paused for just the briefest instant of an instant – clearly it was just as surprised by this as I was – but once again, by some incredible Act of Providence, I recovered before it did and I touched the end filled with crackling electricity to the Wendigo’s outstretched hand.
The Wendigo howled with pain and leaped back, slamming into my ‘host’ – who, in turn, was knocked back into the glass vessels holding the growing Wendigos! One of the vessels was knocked off its moorings and, with a thunderous crash, it fell forward, smashing into thousands of shards and spilling what appeared to be hundreds of gallons of fluid everywhere! The half-grown Wendigo inside the vessel apparently woke up – and then began shrieking the howls of the Damned! Such howling! Such pain! And then I heard bells began to ring and lights began to flash all around the room.
And then – I saw the flickering of flames and smelled the first wisps of smoke!
The room was in sheer anarchy! My host was on the floor, seemingly unconscious or dead, the half-grown Wendigo that was in the glass vessel was still shrieking, the Wendigo that had been guarding me was looking to and fro in utter confusion, and now the room began to fill with smoke!
Oh dear God – I ran!
I blocked out the howling and shrieking and alarms and flashing lights and just kept running as fast as I could!
I had no idea whatsoever where I was running to. All I knew was that I needed to get away as quickly as possible!
And then – after who knows how many minutes of running – a third and final Act of Providence was dealt to me.
Up ahead – I saw a light—and felt the faint but unmistakeable stirrings of fresh air!
As I reached the light, I realized that it was a large metal door, with only a few faint flickers of light along the edges. The door was immense – easily the size of a house! And there were no signs of handles of any kind!
I shrieked and moaned in agony! How can I possible open the door? To be so close to escape and yet so far? Was some capricious god mocking me?
And then, in the midst of my despair, I saw something on the wall.
A huge lever.
Could…could it be? Could it work? What if it was a trap? What if the lever activated something far, far worse?
Having reached this far, I knew that I had nothing to lose, so I clasped the lever with both hands and yanked down with all my strength.
And then – the door began to move! Slowly and ponderously to be sure but it DID begin to move, swinging slowly inwards. As I stood there, eagerly awaiting for the door to open and trying to keep my heart from exploding from my chest, I heard something behind me that chilled my blood.
The howling of a Wendigo!
There was one – possibly the very one that had been guarding me – coming down the passageway towards me! I glanced at the door and throwing caution to the wind, leaped through a small ‘crack’ that now existed between the door and its frame.
I was outside!
I ran and managed to run about 100 yards on the rough terrain when I heard loud howling right behind me. I turned in terror and in my terror, stumbled on a rock and fell forward!
There, behind me, was the Wendigo that had been guarding me! I knew this to be true as I saw on its outstretched hand a small burn mark – the very same that I had given it moments ago!
I wept. I am not ashamed to say it. I was mere seconds away from being attacked by the Wendigo and I wept at what troubles my adventures had wrought upon me.
And then, the Wendigo looked at something behind me in … terror?
And that’s when I heard a much louder howl.
I turned in confusion – and there! Standing a mere ten yards away! The Wendigo! The giant one that had captured me and taken me to this accursed place!
It screamed and leaped – but not at me! At the other Wendigo! With one simple grasp, the giant Wendigo picked up the much smaller one and lifted it over its head with both hands! And then came a terrible crackling sound! The giant Wendigo had literally snapped its smaller brother’s spine! Flinging the now dead Wendigo aside in contempt, it turned its gaze at me and took a step forward!
And then it stopped!
Coming from the now open doorway were the sounds of many shouts and yells – the voices of the Scientists!
The giant Wendigo paused, cocking its head, obviously confused.
And then its eyes widened open in shock and amazement and… remembrance?
With a terrible howl, it tore its gaze away from me and ran – ran directly into the open doorway!
I got up and ran again, trying with no success to block out the terrible screams of pain and terror that were coming from behind me!
How many Scientists were killed by the Wendigo? How many other Wendigos? How much damage did it wrought before it was killed? Could it even be killed? The answers to all of these questions are unknown to me, nor do I care. To escape from the accursed place was sufficient for me. Let others who come after me find those answers, if they dare.
I continued to run.
As I climbed to the top of a ridge a few hundred yards away, I paused.
The entire Valley was laid out before me in all of its splendour and magnificence. And the Sun was just beginning to set behind a mountain, casting an aura of red and gold and purple across the land.
I smiled, thankful whatever god or gods that may have had a hand in my escape, and with tears of joy in my eyes, I walked towards the sunset…
(1) Fraser Valley
(2) Lheidli T'enneh were a subgroup of the First Nation Dakelh people, whose traditional territory included much of the Fraser Valley
(3) Prince George, formerly Fort George
(4) British Columbia
(6) Rocky Mountains
(7) Yellowhead Highway; major east-west highway connecting the four western Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Part of the Trans-Canada Highway system
(8) Terrace, B.C., small service town that once had the claim to fame as being the ‘cedar pole capital of the world’, due to the fact that most of the telephone poles in North America came from the incredibly large and lush cedar forests surrounding the town. Known for its many hot springs due to being near an active fault line.
(9) Wenatchee National Forest
(10) Portland, Oregon
(11) Sun Valley, Idaho. The Kingdom of Sun Valley is actually centred in the very rugged Challis National Forest about 50 or so miles north of the Valley for additional protection against occasional incursions by Moremen and Angel Hordes but for various historical/sentimental reasons, Sun Valley is the name given to the entire kingdom. Sun Valley itself is seen as the ‘entrance way’ for the entire kingdom.
Last edited by Bruno; 08-14-2009 at 03:36 PM.