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You are here: Home --> Audalis --> Legends


Dozip-aurij Caurak (Water-serpent Cavern)

Beneath Niall Juin lies Oshael Tarn, the largest lake in Khordal. A small group of dwarves, known locally as Jhogath-karlen (boat masters) has made a small outcropping of rocks at the eastern end of the lake their home. While a majority of the men work in the mines like most of the dwarven population of Khordal, the women have learned to use small boats to help them gather mushrooms from ledges around the edge of the lake. Wood is hard to come by underground, so the boats are made out of treated animal skin stretched over a light wooden frame similar in style to a coracle. These boats have a shallow draught, perfect for getting in close to the bottom of the lake's banks.

This is the tale of two friends, Amli and Adra, who found more than they were bargaining for in their search for mushrooms….

The day started just like any other for Amli and Adra. After their husbands had left for their shift in the mines, the two friends headed to the lakeside to start their daily round of mushroom gathering. They smiled and chatted as they sat beside one another in the little coracle, an oar apiece. They pulled together in perfect time to speed their little boat out to the far reaches of Oshael Tarn, where the most plentiful supply of mushrooms could usually be found. Today they were scouring the southwestern bank, maneuvering the tiny coracle in close enough to the overhanging ledges to collect any mushrooms hidden there. So far, they hadn't had much luck. The spring had been colder than usual, even this deep underground, which was having a severe effect on the number of mushrooms growing throughout Khordal. If they were to continue to feed the clan, they would have to extend their search further west into unfamiliar waters. After a couple of hours of rowing and gathering they reached the last of the ledges they knew well. With baskets only half full, Amli and Adra decided to press on into a small cavern that lay just ahead. They paddled slowly, scouring the banks for mushroom-bearing ledges, but before they got more than a few feet into the cavern mouth, they heard a deep rumbling sound emanating from the lake ahead of them. Both stopped rowing and stared, open-mouthed, as the surface of the lake started to foam in a circle just ahead of their tiny boat. With a mighty roar, a serpent-like head on a long slender neck reared up in front of the frightened dwarves. The water flowed effortlessly over its turquoise scales and a crimson forked tongue flicked from between its jaws, as if tasting the air. They sat quite still, staring blankly, momentarily hypnotized by its jet black eyes as it swayed like a cobra about to strike. It was Adra who managed to blink first and, with the serpent's spell broken, she panicked and struggled to her feet. As she tried to stand in the small coracle she lost her footing and stumbled backwards away from the beast. This sudden shift of weight in the tiny rowing boat was all it took to destabilise it. It began to rock violently to and fro as Adra tried to regain her balance, but to no avail. Within seconds the boat had capsized, catapulting the dwarves into the icy lake. Amli began to struggle, trying desperately to keep her head above water. Swimming was not a pursuit she had ever undertaken willingly, but in the terror of the moment she managed somehow to propel herself back towards a reasonably large ledge where she could haul herself clear of the freezing cold waters. She huddled shaking on the ledge with her eyes tightly shut for a few seconds. When she had gathered herself long enough to open her eyes, the scene that met her gaze sickened her to the core. There, in the water next to the upturned coracle floated the lifeless form of her friend, Adra. Worse still, the creature that had attacked them was leaning down over her, studying both her and their upturned boat intensely. Amli was sure this would be the end for both of them. She closed her eyes again and prayed for death to come quickly - she had no desire to watch the hideous monster devour her friend before it came to claim her life too. Eyes screwed tightly shut, Amli sat with knees tucked up under her chin, rocking back and forth, shaking violently from the combination of fear and intense cold. The minutes ticked by painfully slowly, until suddenly, she became aware of a scraping sound close beside her. Despite her fear she managed to prise one eye open a crack. She peeped at the sight before her with a growing feeling of disbelief, for what lay beside her, pushed up on the ledge was the little coracle. As she turned and opened both eyes fully she realised that it was not empty. Inside lay Adra, groaning and rubbing the back of her head, but thankfully very much alive. The feeling of elation that overwhelmed Amli helped shake off the effects of the fear and cold. She rose stiffly before clambering into the little boat beside Adra. She threw her arms around her companion's neck and held her close to warm her. Miraculously, Adra had suffered no worse than a lump on the head where she'd been struck by an oar during the capsize. Gathering her courage she turned to where she'd last seen the beast, but much to her surprise and great relief, it was gone. The lake's surface was perfectly still once again, apart from the tiny ripples made by a few mushrooms bobbing up and down in the water. After checking that they were both in one piece and offering a few quick prayers of thanks, the two dwarves launched their boat from the ledge and rowed as quickly as they could back to familiar territory. As they left, a sudden look of horror crossed both faces as a deep icy voice spoke inside their minds. "Go and do not return! - I have been merciful this time - trouble me not and I will leave you in peace". Adra and Amli exchanged uneasy glances but not a word needed to be spoken. Both knew there was no question of returning, ever. From that day forth, the little cove that Amli and Adra stumbled into was designated forbidden water. No dwarf ever ventured within Dozip-Aurij Caurak (Water-serpent Cavern) again, even in the leanest of times. While many claim to have seen signs of a snake-like creature in the depths of Oshael Tarn, there have been no more hostile encounters recorded. It appears the creature is keeping its word.

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Thanks to Sarah Pightling for this contribution!

 


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