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Dark Waters - Bronagh


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The illness was unlike anything Bronagh had seen. Fevers and rashes were moving quickly through his clan; already one elder had succumbed to the sickness. Bronagh's large hands moved deftly through the herbs and remedies he had collected, but the firbolg knew nothing he had would help.

A wide figured moved to block the doorway to Bronagh's home. Brod, his father, stepped in and spoke in a hushed tone. "I believe I know what can help our people, but it is a ways away. I cannot leave the clan in this state. Will you go and retrieve what I need?"

Bronagh agreed immediately, though the journey would prove to take him farther than he had ever been. Within an hour, the firbolg set off on his way, moving deftly through the dense forest. It was two days before Bronagh spotted his destination. His trek had taken him to the base of a jagged cliff, where a small opening could be seen. 

With only a moment of hesitation, Bronagh squeezed into the crevice. Torchlight danced across the uneven walls, illuminating the various mushrooms and mosses growing there. The passage went deeper, and Bronagh continued along the path; the blue moss his father described was not yet to be found.

Hours passed as he continued through the passage. The dampness had coalesced into a stream, pointing the way for the path to continue deeper into the earth. Farther he went, until the cave opened up, a small lake formed at the mouth of the stream. The dim torchlight barely reached the far shore, but there grew the blue moss. 

Setting his torch down, Bronagh waded into the lake, quickly being forced to swim by the depth. Pulling himself out at the far side, he carefully scraped the blue moss from the wall, storing it safely in his pack. Slipping back into the water, Bronagh began the return trip. 

As his foot touched the water, an inhuman screech filled his mind, though his ears heard nothing. Stunned by the mental assault, he offered no resistance as the thick tentacle pulled him into the dark water. 

Inky blackness was all Bronagh could perceive as it overwhelmed all his senses. Time felt as though it came to a standstill, yet stretched to infinity. Mercifully, and suddenly, it all stopped.

Bronagh awoke, soaked but intact. Two thoughts forced him to regain his feet and run: you must flee, and you must return home. Urgency drove him, the trip home taking almost half the time. He kept his thoughts on his people to avoid recalling the lake. The sensation of those dark waters lapping at the edge of his mind, always just out of reach, was unnerving him.

Emerging from the forest, Bronagh's father greeted him warmly, praising him for the successful trip. Immediately, Brod prepared his remedy, and both he and Bronagh began distributing it amongst their clan. Soon it was obvious: the cure was working!

Within days, the illness had been eradicated. Pride swelled in Bronagh, but the dark waters kept encroaching. He was unable to sleep, visions of the dark jolting him awake. The community wished to celebrate their good health and fortune and held a feast to honor Brod and Bronagh.

The feast was a true celebration, the food was tasty and plentiful, the music upbeat. Bronagh sat on a wooden bench, enjoying the music. His eyes grew heavy, and he dosed off. The dark waters encroached in his mind, rearing back to gather. They formed a might wave and crashed against his mind. With a scream, Bronagh awoke. 

His scream was not the only one, however. A large swathe in front of Bronagh was... corrupted. Inky black tendrils sprouted from the ground, eagerly looking for something living to grab. A half dozen firbolg were screaming as they were trapped by the tendrils, and the whole clan stared in shock and fear Bronagh.

As he stood up and fled, the tendrils fell to the ground with a soft goosh. Bronagh ran into his home and fell to the ground gripping his head. Only a moment passed before a hand reached down and gently roused him. Brod helped him sit up, and began to calm him down. He suggested Bronagh stay there for now, and he would go speak to everyone.

It was over an hour before Brod returned. His face taught, he told Bronagh that he must leave the clan. Too many of his people were frightened, too many found the accident to be a bad omen.  Brod helped his son pack his few belongings, and walked him to the edge of the village.

Bronagh didn't blame his clan, he couldn't. Whatever had happened to him clearly did something, and until he understood what it was, he had to stay away. And so, he set off.

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