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Devil's Water - Short Excerpt

Old Vault Category: 
Old Vault ID: 

Over the years, the Weeping Willow had gained a certain unpleasant reputation amongst its visitors. Some said it was the pine forest, that the owner had built it too close to the trees and the wild crept in on snowy nights, others that a young girl had been strangled under the floorboards of the cellar. Either way, it was a desolate place: the landlord spent most of his evenings drinking alone in the bar, and guests were few and far between on the hard, winter-bound road. If any traveller did stumble into the warmth of the rooms, caught out in the storm, you could be sure that there was more on his mind than a good night’s sleep.

The old man waited until it was dark. The snow was falling heavily outside the window: soon the road would be almost impassable. He kept glancing back down at the three heavy candles he had laid on the floor, along with a shallow dish of snow that had turned to slushy water, as if afraid that he might lose them. Once he heard the innkeeper coming up to rap gently on the door: he remained silent, as if asleep. There was a moment’s pause, and then footsteps reverberated into silence back down the corridor.

Damn fool, he thought.

He locked the door securely and returned to his candles, blowing all of them out but one. A faint sound from outside startled him for a second, but a quick glance out of the window restored his calm: a wolf’s distant cry, the tavern sign creaking in the gale, nothing more. Kneeling heavily onto the carpet, he took a piece of red chalk from his pocket and began to trace a circle, slowly and exactly, around him on the floor. He then dissected it with five straight lines, and placing the dish of water in the centre of his creation, drew a knife and, with the utmost care, pricked his finger. He glanced up again to make sure he was unobserved, and then moved his hand over the dish. A single drop of blood fell, hit the surface of the water, and blossomed. The old man closed his eyes began to mutter an incantation, under his breath as if to himself. Finally, he clapped his hands together hard.

Nothing happened. He opened his eyes, and with the slightest trace of hesitation on his features, frowned.

From somewhere in the shadows, there came the click of a crossbow bolt being pulled back.

“You should have said the spell first of all,” the young man said, stepping out from the shadows. He was tall, and dark-haired: a single scar was drawn across his pale features. The old man sighed and got to his feet, patting the dust away from his robes. He did not turn around.

“Mooncalf,” he replied with a touch of weariness. “I was hoping you might have been held up by the storm.” Mooncalf made a little bow of acknowledgment, keeping his crossbow, however, aimed at the old man’s head.

“I had some help getting here,” he said.

“The dwarves back at Thunderstrood?”

“The vampyre.”

“Ah.” There was a moment of silence. Finally the wizard added, with a hint of regret, “I should have killed her.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“It was a mistake, I admit. Well, I am getting rather too old for this sort of activity, and now it seems, indeed, you have bested me.”

Mooncalf shrugged. For a moment his dark face glinted with triumph. Then it was a mask once more.

“Vincent Dale,” he said in a more officious voice, “I am arresting you with the authority of the people and governing body of Waterdeep, on charges of treason, intent to consort with the dark forces, and manslaughter. Have you anything to say in your defence?”

Dale sighed again.

“You know, there is a purseful of gold in that cabinet next to you,” he said. “I don’t suppose in exchange I might prevail upon you to let me go?”

Mooncalf paused, and then stepped back into the shadows. There was the creak of a drawer and a jingle of coins. Then he reappeared, with the faintest traces of a grin on his face.

“Vincent Dale,” he repeated solemnly, “I am arresting you…”

But quite suddenly, before he could finish his recitation, Dale sneezed. As if a ghostly hand had swept through the inn, the candle snuffed out, leaving the room in total blackness. There was a twang as the crossbow bolt imbedded itself in the doorpost.

Mooncalf stood alone for a moment in the dark. Then he felt his way forward: gradually his eyes accustomed to the light of the moon. The window was wide open, the snow blowing in, and Dale was gone.

“Bugger,” he murmured to himself, and then, more loudly, “Laldrissa!”

Dale stumbled out of the snowdrift and began to run. The blizzard came at him from everywhere, blinding him. And then on the wind he began to hear a terrible, inhuman scream.

She landed on the slope in front of him and he froze. A terrible woman-creature, cold and beautiful, her eyes bright with bloodlust.

“Hello, Vincent,” Laldrissa said, licking her lips. “I bet you didn’t expect to see me again, did you?”

Dale felt ready to scream with terror. He fumbled for his dagger but somehow it caught in his belt and he could not loosen it. She drew her own blade, shimmering in the snowfall, and began to take slow, easy strides towards him. With a kind of instinctive genius, his lips began to form the opening words of the first spell he could remember.

She was almost upon him when it happened. The snow all around him compacted: ice began to creep quickly up his thighs, seeping into his bones, spreading into new flesh. He began to expand. The immense power of the cold drove him upwards, twisting him into a monstrous new shape. His arms cracked and bent, ever growing, until he stood, tall and terrible, above the tiny shape of the vampyre below. With a sweep of his frosted arm, he sent her flying into the snowdrift.

Mooncalf came running out of the inn.

“Laldrissa, I-” he began, and then looked up at the enormous man of ice that had been Vincent Dale. “Oh, bugger,” he said again, vaguely, and dived to one side. A huge fist sliced into the air where he had been a second before. Rolling through the snow, he righted himself and slipped around the corner of the building.

He flung his useless crossbow aside and began to fumble hastily amongst his possessions. In front of the inn, the Dale-Giant was turning stupidly from side to side, as if to see where its tiny enemy had gone. Finally Mooncalf was able to disentangle his sword. He also found something else: a tiny red bottle, concealed in his pocket, marked 'Devil's Water'.

“By all that’s holy,” he murmured to it, “You’d better work.” In the next moment, he leapt out and ran, as fast as he could, terror bursting in his veins, towards the giant. He ducked under its legs, slicing desperately at its hamstrings as he went. The second he was back amongst the pine trees, he turned to see what damage his attack had done.

The giant tottered a little, and then righted itself, glancing dumbly towards its legs, and then turned towards Mooncalf. It roared. And began to stomp across the snow towards him.

“Oh, hell,” Mooncalf said to nobody in particular. He uncorked the little red bottle and sniffed gingerly at it: it stank like nothing he could recall. He shrugged and, pressing the stopper in tight, lobbed it in the direction of the charging giant.

There was a moment when he could only hear his own heart beating. And then the bottle exploded into flame.

The Dale-Giant stopped. Searing black fire was creeping up its thighs. With a puzzled look on its great face, it tried to brush the flames away with its hands, but too late: the ice of its legs was melting fast. Soon they shrunk to little more than wafer-thin, and then snapped: with a hideous cracking, its unsupported torso fell to the ground, and exploded. The shards flew across the snowdrift. One pinwheeled over Mooncalf’s head and buried itself in a pine trunk.

Laldrissa came to stand beside him.

“You’re full of surprises,” she said after a few moments, “You know that?”

“Oh, yes,” Mooncalf replied vaguely, staring at the pile of snow where Dale had been. She flicked a strand of her hair aside with a slightly petulant look on her face.

“Well,” she said, “what now, then?”


“I said, what now?” Mooncalf sheathed his sword absent-mindedly.

“Well,” he said, “I think we deserve a drink, don’t we?”

Devil's Water: Short Excerpt © erik

Migrate Wizard: 
First Release: 
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