The lake water lapped silently at the quiet, sandy beaches, moonlight casting gloomy hues of gray across the landscape. Above the darkened depths of the water, the city of Cradof slept soundlessly, the shadowed heights of the castle towering ominously above the modest surrounding establishments.
A man stood on a gently swaying barge, eyes scanning the many streets and houses that made up the city that sat on a giant hill. The turrets of a fortress set atop the apex of this hill blocked out the stars in the sky. He swiftly and acutely unwound the rope securing the boat to the wooden dock, brisk salt air chilling through his cloak. His was the only boat currently occupying this area of the port, set away from the others and out of common use.
Without a sound, he stood up straight, ears catching the faint traces of something he had been waiting to hear: the tapping of hastened footsteps upon stone.
The moment had come.
He strained to see his wife moving between the houses, heading in his direction. Finally, he caught her slender form running through the alleys. His heart stopped as he spotted shadowed figures close behind her, giving chase. His mouth formed soundless words, “Move….move!” urging his wife onward.
As she grew closer, he made out the small bundle she carried in her arms, wrapped in white cloths: his son. Soon, he could hear the breaths as his wife exhaled, exerting herself to the maximum in hopes of saving their child. She only had a few blocks to go and she would be on the barge.
Her feet covered the last few yards and she jumped aboard the boat, tightly clutching the crying child. Behind her, the shadowed figures let out a deafening screech, piercing the night with their call as they continued onward in pursuit.
Knowing he had only seconds left, the man took out his wand and pointed it towards the rear of the boat. He whispered, “Wotiran.”
The sound of rushing water met his ears and the boat sprang forward, off into the open waters of the lake. His large hands grasped the wheel, guiding the boat away from shore. He heard his wife let out a scream behind him, and he turned in time to see the shadowed figures taking off from the docks. They flew through the air, leaving black trails behind them, and headed for the boat. He held out his wand before him, yelling to the wind that rushed past him, “Grangnir!”
The tip of his wand glowed bright orange before a blast of light erupted from it, sending a ball of fire hurtling towards the closest figure.
It splashed into the black shadow, erupting in a flash of flame and engulfing it entirely. With a final piercing cry, it plunged into the water below, leaving only a trace of smoke behind in its memory. The others sped on, swirling around each other in a hectic blur of black as they approached the barge in its futile attempts at escape.
The woman placed the baby in one of the open crates, hay filling the inside to offer cushion as the boat rocked forward. She turned to face the threat as she took out her own wand, but it was too late.
One of the creatures squealed as it plummeted down to her, grabbing her by the cloak and lifting her up into the air. The other shadows swarmed around, and she let out a bloodcurdling scream as they dove in on her. Her husband let out a cry and sent another ball of fire into the mass, sending one more of the creatures to their death in the waters below. His wife screamed once more, then a loud crack sounded and she became silent.
His eyes blurred while he watched the figures fling the body of his wife off into the air; watched as it crashed into the now churning waters, claimed in a moment by its unforgiving depths. He could not react fast enough as the creatures turned on him, grabbing him by his jerkin and lifting him off the barge. Within moments, he had met the same fate as his wife and was sinking towards the bottom of the lake.
The shadows landed on the boat with a thump, rocking it sharply to the side and causing the boxes to shift. They circled around the crate holding the baby, leaning over it to enact their final act of evil.
The crate erupted with a blinding blaze of pure white light, brightening the sky above as if the sun had risen. When the light had diminished, all that was left of the creatures were piles of black dust, soon carried off by the wind towards the city of Cradof.
The baby continued to cry in its cradle of hay, the boat propelled onward by its father's spell.
The sun rose on the horizon, casting light onto the awakening Grigmire Village.
A few men stood on the deck of a boat that had turned up just minutes before, nothing and nobody aboard except a few crates.
“Nothing in these boxes except hay,” announced one of them, a burly man with cropped red hair. As if on cue, a soft cry came from a crate to his left, and he stepped over to it, eyebrows furrowed in curiosity. He looked down into its contents, brushing some of the hay aside. His mouth dropped as he said, hesitating, “Why…it’s a baby boy.”
Cradof = Crŭ-doff
Wotiran = Wō-tēr-in
Grangnir = Grāng-near
Grigmire = Grig-mīre