The god of the well
He looked back up at the woman dressed in a deep-violet-colored robe, unsure if he had heard well.
“You must undress before you enter the water”, she repeated with a flat voice.
A light breeze was flowing making the thin cloth flutter around her body and her short raven-colored hair ripple in waves. Her emerald eyes however were fixed on him and did not waver, he felt that she was somehow peering directly into his soul.
“The guardians of the lake will not be pleased to meet you if you are tainted with earthly possessions, one must enter pure of body to hope to have a chance to communicate with them”, she added .
Her voice echoed around them against the stone and mud walls, reverberating infinitely in his ears. He knew she was serious but he couldn’t help being a tad unwilling to comply. Being naked in front of her was the least of the reasons he could think of: the air was cold, he could see the small clouds of steam coming out of his mouth each time he breathed, and he was sure the water would be even colder. What really bothered him however was the idea of leaving his equipment behind, he knew enough to not blindly trust the sorceress nor the guardians and yet he had to do this without any means to defend himself in case something happened… He looked up at the sky, only partially visible even through the gigantic opening. The myriads of stars paled against the brightness of the Rift’s bluish glow that illuminated the aethers. The night was dark, as dark as it could have been. Apart from his breathing and the slight rustling of the clothes, everything was silent, even the water, as if nature around the lake had gone to sleep.
“You have to decide soon, traveller. The spirits will not be patient indefinitely…”
He turned to her once more, her pale face reflected the bluish gleam of the night, before setting his eyes on the dark body of water. It was even darker than the sky, barely reflecting the scar on its ink-black surface. Unmoving, its calm stillness not even disrupted by a single ripple, it seemed like black mirror made of onyx, darker than darkness itself, barely visible to the human eye as if it sucked in all the light around. He had never seen such a sight. He had never felt such a thing either. He could feel its cold presence emanating from the darkness and saturating the whole space. He knew he had to go in, not out of duty or necessity but, for once, out of curiosity. He had to. If he didn’t then he would never know… But if he did… The thought made him shiver. He felt like a butterfly flying towards a bright fire, blinded by the light and not realizing it would burn itself.
The stillness of the black body of liquid in front of him was eerie, but it wasn’t that or the freezing temperature that covered his skin with goosebumps. No. It was the things he had heard about it, about those who had tried such a thing before him. Tales of madness and death, crippling pain of unimaginable proportions and visions that would shatter more than one sane soul. Plus the look the robed woman was shooting at him wasn’t reassuring one bit. He took a quick glance at her once again, his dark gaze meeting her emerald one. Her face betrayed no emotion but he could have sworn he had seen the shadow of a smile flash through her eyes. Even the resemblance was eerie… But he couldn’t be thinking about that right now. He took in a deep breath and steeled his resolve.
He might have seemed calm in appearance but, as he began undressing himself, his heart was racing and his mind was in overdrive. What if something happened? Would he be able to react in time? Would he even know how to react? Slowly he took each and every piece of cloth on his body off. He felt his cheeks burn as he started undressing. The fresh breeze on his skin made him shiver. Finally, once he found himself in nothing but his underwear he looked at the sorceress again.
“You are on the right path, traveller…”, she commented with a smirk.
He sighed, knowing she was enjoying every bit of this, that she would not advert her gaze and that it was useless to try to cover himself for it would remain intently fixed on him. Finally he took the last piece of cloth off. Once it was done he felt completely vulnerable, more than he had ever felt in his life. And he couldn’t be sure it was because of what he was going to attempt… He took off the necklace around his neck and carefully places the silver pendant on the top of the pile of clothes. If he had been less worried he might have chuckled at the slightly ironic sight of the finely designed butterfly. He then turned towards the lake. He sighed once more before taking a tentative step towards the dark and completely still body of water, feeling her gaze on himself with every step.
As his bare foot touched the cold water it sent a unique ripple throughout its surface. The breeze got stronger as he began entering the water. He clenched his jaw and wondered what he would find on the other side, trying his best to take his mind of the freezing temperature. It took him an eternity to reach a waist-level depth but as soon as he did he felt an intense wave of magic hit him at full force. It surrounded him and grasped his body and mind like a vice. He tried to stop it, to resist, almost backing out of the lake, but found himself unable to keep control over his limbs, they wouldn’t respond to him anymore. He knew his will to be strong but against such a quick and powerful aggression, and having to face the freezing temperature of the lake, he had not been able to react in time.
He cursed himself for his carelessness, barely halfway in and he was already caught in a trap. He tried to free himself from this unknown power but it was as if he was an insect caught in a spider’s web, the more he resisted, the more he lost control. Slowly he felt himself be pulled towards the depth of the water by invisible but irresistible strings. He wanted to turn around, to yell at her for betraying him, he wanted to let his fury rage about but he was frustratingly unable to do anything except witness his own demise… As he was about to be completely submerged in the cold darkness, he heard the voice of the sorceress behind him.
“Now you must surrender everything you are to them, otherwise he will never see you… And so will your friends…”, she said with a wide smirk before turning around and slowly disappearing into the night.
That was the last thing he heard before the strings dragged him into the depths and the lake swallowed him whole. As the ripples faded away on its surface the breeze calmed down and everything became still again. It was as if nothing had ever happened, the only remainder of a human presence was the pile of clothes atop which was placed the silvery pendant, gleaming as it reflected the bluish light of the Rift.
Here is a scene I have had in mind for quite some time now and that I finally came around to write for this prompt.
I hope you enjoy it despite perhaps not getting everything.