Spider's legacy part 3
Eliza slowly rose the spoon to her lips, the vegetable stew was probably the best food she had in weeks but a deep seethed feeling of dread kept her from enjoying it. It had been three days since they arrive here. South Astoria was a lot different from the wetlands. It was a lot wilder and monsters were rampant. Alister had left her in the care of two elderly famers. They were kind to her but a feeling of dread seemed to never quite go away. She supposed she was worried that Alister would just leave here. That he would just wander off when the job was done and she would never see him again. During these few weeks on the road she had grown to depend on the man. While he spoke little and kept his distance she knew he was kind.
Alister waited. It was dark under the trees and damp, the moisture causing the clothes to stick his body. The land was swampy and there were many wild animals. But that was not what he was after. Several homesteads he had come across were empty. People in the last town reported that folks lowing out in the bayou were going missing, no trace like they left and never came back. He had already been paid for taking any creature or creatures he came across while traveling through the bayou. In the past three days he hadn't encountered anything that could lead to such a large scale disappearance. A few chupacabras but those only fed on the blood of goats, deer, horses and similar animals. He had killed an ape man the other day. Those were carnivorous and known man eaters but he doubted the creature was responsible. After inspecting g one of the homes he found no damage done to it. An ape-man would have broken things, and they typically avoided human homes only attacking lone travelers. There was a colony of giant spiders, but they were very territorial and never went beyond their hunting grounds. So far he hadn't seen anything that was out of the ordinary.
"Perhaps the people just left." He thought to himself." But almost all of them so quickly?"
Life in the bayou was harsh. It was hot all year, the land was moist, but unsuitable to grow most crops and vegetables. People here lived scattered on the small patches of land surrounded by the pools of water. Herbs and plants grew here that grew nowhere else. The mangroves around the coats were rich with fish, those who lived closer to the meadows kept goats and cows. Many of the locals allowed travelers to stay at their homes, that's why the disappearances were noticed so quickly. Travelers arriving to places they stayed before only to find the house empty.
If he was honest with himself, there was nothing keeping him here any longer. He had killed several creatures he encountered in the bayou, and he already had his payment. He could walk away right now and probably not be in the wrong either. Just leave. The girls was safe, the old couple would take good care of her. But somehow, a part of him felt wrong. There was a feeling deep down that was almost like fear. Something he could not explain to himself. This feeling made him stick around. He checked again. The shallow pools and the deeper ones. Great place to get rid of bodies. Maybe it was done by people, robbers of something. But while there were bones they were old and gnawed on by alligators, nothing recent.
Taking the book out of its holster Alister flipped thought the pages keeping descriptions of creatures and places where he had encountered. There were many creatures, some from his own encounters, others obtained from other necromancers he encountered along the way. The books was almost full now. Flipping thought swamp and bayou creatures. Nothing that could cause such a disappearance.
Could it be some type of new creature? Something unseen before. Perhaps he was overthinking it. Placing the book back he remained in the shade listening to the buzzing of insects. The feeling that something was wrong only growing deeper. He could not place a finger it. The insects buzzed even more intensely. What was missing? Everything seemed fine, yet something seemed to be bothering him since the moment he set foot into the bayou.
All he could hear were the various insects and the occasional breeze rustling the trees. That's it. But where were all the birds that should be plentiful this time of year? Not a single animal has do the water to drink. No muskrat trails around the water either. In three days he had not seen any other creature aside from the monsters and even those were few. Something had scared all of them off. But what could ir be? What would make the monsters run in fear?
Eliza lay in bed awake, unable to sleep. Something bothered her since they had arrived but the young woman couldn't put a finger on it. Her stomach growled in complaint. The old woman had been insistent she ate all of her food. Eliza was used not having much to eat, so this becoming a mild annoyance. But she couldn't refuse them either. They were so welcoming to her and even to Alister but he left quickly. She wondered if had perhaps already killed whatever monster it was and left her behind. She guessed she could get used to life in the bayou, but It would get lonely and dangerous after the old folk die. A young girl living alone in a place like this- seemed like a bad idea. Monsters, passers by one can't be sure about safety. Lying in bed didn't seem to help her stomach feel any less bloated. Quietly she got out of the bed and opened the door into the hall. Out the window she caught a glimpse of something like a light. A lantern? It quickly vanished out of sight. Eliza tip toed to the end of the hall where the bedroom of Eustace and Muriel was. The door was slightly ajar. Careful to not make any sound she looked inside to find the room empty.
"No. Sure not…." The woman thought to herself. "But how did they survive here, when everyone around is going missing?"
Alister watched the house from afar. There were people still living here. Ones of the few who didn't go missing yet. Whatever it was, targeting people. It would come. If not tonight then soon. Aside from the old people he left Eliza with he noticed three other homesteads in his wanderings around the bayou. Relatively far apart from each other but they showed signs of people living in them. He felt something wasn't right. These people didn't go outside, the windows were covered with cloth from the inside. The house was more decrepit despite being lived in. Some of the empty ones had been the same. There was a feeling in the air, like something was approaching. A scream came from the house. Alister focused, preparing to move, then he stopped. He could see it. It was tall, white, reaching up to the branches of the trees, long limbs stained with red. Empty eye sockets glowing. The necromancer felt a chill run down his spine. The creature approached the house, seemingly shrinking as it moved. He didn't see it after it reached the door, then angle blocking it from his view.
Slowly moving towards the house. He crouched near the wall of the house. There was a sound of crunching coming inside. Inching closer to the door he could see the pale creature sitting with its long legs bent to the sides like some strange giant frog. Its mouth was open and what resembled legs was sticking out of it. The crunching sound came whenever it swallowed. Noticing Alister the creature seemed to gulp down its meal and prepare to leap at the man. Alister moved to the side as it leaped out of the entrance. It turned around and howled at him in a raspy low voice. Then it leaped back into the woods.
He entered the house once more. Trying to locate the source of the scream. The house was filthy, flies and various insects buzzing around the fire place. There was strange smell. Almost like burning flesh. Stoking the fire, he noticed something in it. Blackened bones, too big to be a chicken of a muskrat, not big enough to a deer. Being a necromancer he knew these bones well.
The basement was dark, the smell of dampness, mold and blood was thick in the air. Light from the upstairs illuminated buckets full of dark liquid. On the table lay the body of a woman, head and limbs severed. A deep cut in her stomach, organs in the process of being removed. The creature had interrupted the residence in the middle of their work. She had died a short while ago. Reaching out with his power he felt around of her spirit. The severed head moved slightly, it's eyes beginning to glow.
"What happened here?" Alister asked.
"They took us in for shelter. We were three, looking four our missing friends. They were traveling and then never came back. They put something in the food. We woke up chained in the basement. They took my brother first. They ate him. Then my lover. "
Alister vanished the spirit, sending it to Death. He left the house. The people here got what they deserved. Going back to the nearest abandoned homestead he found similar traces of bones in the ash, or shallow graves on the property, remains in an empty well. No doubt the creatures of the swamp, like spiders or the ape-men would be blamed for vanishing travelers, while the real monster were hiding in plain sight.
Eliza sat curled up in her bed, holding a kitchen knife hidden under the covers. She hear the footsteps of them returning. It was still dark out. They seemed to head into the bedroom. Fearful she fell into an uneasy sleep only to be startle awake by a knock on the door.
"Eliza dear, breakfast is ready."
Nervously she got out of bed. Looking tired, with dark circles under her eyes.
"Oh my. You look dreadful. Is everything alright?" the old woman inquired.
"I had a stomachache." She lied.
"I'll make you some nice herbal tea."
Making her way downstairs she was surprised to find Alister sitting in the kitchen.
"You're back? Does that mean you're done with the job?"
He slowly nodded.
"Are you staying for dinner?" the old woman chimed in." I'm making muskrat stew. Lately they have been harder and harder to find. We had to move the traps farther out." she was holding a wooden cage with a muskrat inside.
Eliza felt guilty for being suspicious. After breakfast Alister headed to bed. Eliza helped with the cooking. The strange feeling of unease was gone. She wondered if Alister was going to tell her to remain behind. She ate lunch trying to hold back the burning question. It took almost all of her concentration, and she barely touched the food.
"Is something the matter dear? Is it you stomach again?"
Eliza shoot her head.
"Well, are coming or not?" Alister was already getting ready to leave.
"Yeah." She cleaned her plate in seconds, overjoyed that he wasn't leaving her behind.
It was a while after they had walked further from the house that she heard it- the songs of various birds were in the air.
"I don't think I've hear birds since we got here." She said.
Alister said nothing.
"So what was it? The monster? You got it right?"
He was quiet for a while.
"Let's just say that the ones responsible got what they deserve."
"One thin still bother me." She said" how did Muriel and Eustace survive, why didn't they go missing like everyone else?"
"Well, I guess, in a swamp full of monsters they were only true humans."
'What does that mean?" She said confused.
Alister said nothing and kept on walking. The bayou gave way to a denser forest. From uphill they could see the valley and in the distance the lights of a town.
"You never told me where we are going?" Eliza said.
She had been wondering about it since they met.
"There is port there" he pointed to the lights." You can stay behind. I'm taking a boat to Midland.