Ghost Story - Into the Abyss

by

Rich Gentile


 

 And those who gaze too long into the Abyss, beware, for the Abyss also gazes back at you

Nietzche


The Tempest swirled all about the small raft, it's misty black tendrils trying to gain a foothold on the Ferrymans Raft and capsize both it and it's riders... From all about them, came the howls and screams of Damned Souls, reaching out, probing the emotional strength and stability of the Small Band that dared to invade the Isle of Sorrows...

The Gloom was pervasive, and all-encompassing, limiting visibilty to less than a score of yards, even taking into account the enhanced senses so prevelant among the Restless Dead... So, in truth, much as it galled the small Band, they were relying largely upon the Ferryman to warm them of oncoming dangers and to steer them safely to their Destination...

For his part, however, the Ferryman remained unconcerened.. (At least as far as the Troop could make out, what with the large hooded Cloak the Ferryman wore!) He stood, rigid, steering the Troop towards their destiny.. Each time his Oar broke the murky "water", a soft moan of pain could be heard from the Plasm the Raft was floating upon..

"Land Ho!" One of the 'Divers (In life, a rough and tumble thug named Osric MacReady, in Death a rough and tumble HellDiver!) cried out.. And indeed, just visible thorugh the Gloom could be seen the Harbor of the once-mighty City of Stygia, beckoning to them like a Moth to a Flame...

Making no motion that he had even heard the frenzied cry, the Ferryman continued poling through the Tempest towards the Harbour and the Fallen City beyond...

 

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Osric stood, motionless, looking down at the illimitable chasm that stood before him, a Gateway to Madness and Terror. He stared, open-mouthed, at the stairway that spiraled down into the Dark... A wave of pure fear rushed through his Corpus, and he shivered as he looked into the Stygian Gloom and thought of the mindless Horrors that awaited him and his company of "Hell-Divers" at the bottom...

He stood, thinking of the historic things that had transpired in this area..... Until recently, this site had been known as the "Venous Stair", located in the very heart of Stygia, and it had been zealously guarded by Hierarchy Legionnares. Rumor had it that Charon himself, the First Imperator, had descended three times down these very steps, into the dark heart of the Labrinyth to battle the Tides of Oblivion.. But, Then, the 6th Great Maelstrom had descended upon the heart of the Dark Kingdom of Iron...

Now, with Charon gone, (Supposedly Transcended, though Osric didn't believe a word of it.!) and the Underworld in an uproar, the Maelstrom still raged, spewing it's fury throughout the Realms of the Dead, and, with each passing hour, Stygia, the once- great City of the Dead, Heart of the Underworld, continued it's slow, inexorable descent towards Oblivion...

Osric, goaded into movement by his Comrades-In-Arms, edged forward.. As he approached, he fancied that he could see the very steps themselves pulsating, as if in response to his footfalls.. Indeed, as he drew closer, Osric fancied that he could see pink striations marbling the otherwise glassy black steps... Striations that looked remarkably, in the dim light, like living, Human Flesh..

Yet, even in it's grotesqueness. there was... something... about the chasm that called to the assembled Company... Perhaps it was the ages-old lure of Adventure and Treasure.. Or, perhaps it was the fact that they sought to make a name for themselves by delving into the Fallen City; Or perhaps, just perhaps, it was the chance to strike a blow against Oblivion right at it's very source...

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