Removing the dragon’s head was not easy. My opponent laid stunned and incapacitated from a magical potion I had finally managed to throw at it when the dragon’s fatigue, much like my own, had begun to catch up to it. Its long neck of golden scales like chain mail laid across the ground, a prisoner in its own body, but not for long. The potion mage only guaranteed me that this concoction wouldn’t last more than sixty seconds, so I moved with haste to finish this fight one and for all. I drew my blade up in the air and swung it down, using the rest of my might to hack through the dragon’s thick scales, dense bones, and pulpy flesh like a lumberjack chopping through the mightiest tree in the forest. Halfway through its neck the beast let out a deep moan, it was then that I realized that I had cut through most of its esophagus as a spurt of wind rushed up from the wound taking with it crimson blood that sprayed all over my shining armor and face. I did not stop, in fact I chopped harder and faster in fear that the potion had begun to wane. I did not do so to put the beast out of its misery. No, my mind had become clouded with the blood-lust of victory and a desire to save the rumored beautiful damsel that laid within the tower that I had staked my upon my life to save when I set out for this quest many moons ago. I had become a man driven by conquest and spoils, nothing more. Little did I know at the time that the dragon did not guard the tower to keep its prisoner in, but to protect the outside from what lies within.
The dragon let out one last moan when my blade finished it off. Its body went limp and the life flicked away from its eyes like a blown out candle. With my opponent now just a husk of flesh, scales and bones I turned towards the tower and began limping towards the tower doors. Time and rot had devoured the tower. The ancient stones had been eroded away and eaten by the scarlet vines that stretched upwards from the base to the very tip. Like a flame devouring a fuel log in the middle of a bonfire. I feared that even the gentlest breeze would rattle the walls and send it crumbling down upon me and the dame that lived inside. However, this did not fuel me with fear, but haste to save whoever had been taken prisoner. I began moving as fast as my tired body would allow.
When I pushed against the doors a deep groan came from within the walls of the tower. I paused, bracing for another battle with another beast, but the groaning stopped. I pushed again and the same sound echoed through the tower’s cylindrical walls and bounced back to my ears. Pausing once again the sound stopped. Finally, with one last push I heard the groan again, louder and fuller, and then I laughed at my own delirium. My chuckles reverberating off the walls back towards me. The doors! There was no beast calling to me from the abyss of the tower, but the sounds of the heavy metal doors as they rotated about their hinges. I must had been more exhausted from that battle than I had previously thought. Shaking my head I gave the doors one final heave and entered the tower.
The interior was pitch black, darker than I had expected given the daylight outside. But luckily for me I found a torch beside the door and lit it up, granting me some respite from the darkness. I lit the torch and the room filled with an amber light, except there was no room. I had expected a room filled with tables, chairs and perhaps some books, as one usually expected to find in old mage towers, but instead I was greeted with an empty void just a few meters from the entrance. A thick dark abyss that absorbed even the sun’s light as it shown through the door. To my right, a spiral staircase descended into the void. Putting all sense of unease behind me, I followed the stairwell. I would not have come all this far just to cower away at the sight of darkness like a child.
I journeyed down the stone stairs, only the light of the torch and the clattering of my armor accompanying me. The deeper I went the silenter it got, the echos of my armor became more muted at each level, and the flames of the torch dimer. As if the darkness itself absorbed them. Soon, the pounding of my heart had become the loudest sound in the depths. For the first time since I was a little boy, I begun to feel real fear. I looked up. The light from the door had nearly vanished, just a sliver of white light. Like a moth near candlelight, I felt a strong urge to go to it and I hard nearly given into my rational fear when I heard her.
A gentle singing from deep down within the well of darkness. Beautiful and delicate. Alas, I had found my princess and she was not far away. Laughing again at my delirium, I ventured down towards the base. I had not noticed at the time that my chuckling did not echo back to me.
At the base I could feel the immense pressure of the darkness pressing against everything. My torch, although still burning full, seemed to let out no more light than a candles, and the clattering of my armor had taken on a muffled sound as if it had been submerged underwater. My heart however, thundered through my ears. A drum pounding loud on either side of my head. Looking up only the abyss remained. Even the faint musk of mold and dust that I had smelled at the top of the stairwell had disappeared. The air had become completely scentless. All that remained beyond the dim reach of my flames was the trace of a stone floor. Again, the cowardly side of my brain began nudging at me to retreat back up. To return to the comfort of the daylight. But when I looked up into the endless void above me, I wondered if I would ever be able to find my way back to the light. And then a sliver of light appeared across the room from me, followed by that elegant singing.
Pure white light. Whiter than even the sun shone from across the well. My eyes now well adapted to the abyss had become nearly blinded in its rays. When they finally dilated I made sense of the source. An opening to a doorway! And beyond it, her voice. I followed the light and the voice and entered the room.
This story was inspired by this prompt over on reddit (also inspired by Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer and Uzumaki by Junji Ito, if you’re looking for some good horror recommendations).