4 – The Deep Dweller

Of the many, many monstrosities that plagued all parts of this forsaken world, there were some whose names carried more infamy than others. There were those whose names were not spoken, lest they take notice, but they were in rare focus for the Hunters, for such creatures were the purview of the Church. No, the closest a Hunter would get to a Named was in the form of monstrosities granted titles for the damage they dealt; special creatures, renowned for fierceness, cowardice, cruelty, savagery, viscosity, malice, resilience, or really any quality that made them stand out especially.

Such monstrosities rarely lived that long though. Names carried reputation, and there was a difference between being named and being Named. A bear could be killed without issue, but The Bear…Well, when something had a Name like that, it required attention and caution both.

The simpler the name, the more fearsome the monster, or so the common wisdom went. It depended immensely, which was why Bonnie moved with some caution when she had been referred to deal with a creature called “The Deep Dweller”. 

Abandoned villages weren’t uncommon. Most were ghost towns where the resources had dried up and the people moved on; tragic, in a sense, but better than the alternative. Most of the time, the monsters moved in after the humans had abandoned it. Sometimes, rarely but not rare enough, something went wrong. A nest of verrats grew too big. A giant wandering through houses. Worse.

There were always worse things out there. And anything with a name was something to be concerned about. Named monsters had bounties though, and wealth was quite the motivator to go hunting.

In this circumstance, there was no proper image on the posting. Merely a descriptor: “Small, but could be bigger. Dark. Might be furred. Eyes like midnight. Burrows down deep to hide. Deceptively fast.”

There was a well in the center of town. It looked grimy. 

The surrounding buildings were cracked and crumbling. Snow piled on and buried what was there. Many had been scavenged of whatever could be valuable, leaving only the things too big and too worthless to take. That led to the question of what was going on with the well.

Bonnie stepped closer, then paused at the way the well’s stones shifted. Something black leaked through the gaps in it. She raised her rifle, stared down the sights, and fired at the bucket hanging above the basin. It shattered into fragments of broken wood, and that brought out the beast in the depths.

It was black. Pitch-black, inky and slimy, tentacles pouring out of the well and investigating, prodding at the barren ground around it. Pale eyes opened across its flesh, staring out through a milky film that looked as though it were opaque, yet the thing still moved as though it could see.

Teeth opened in its body, sharp and needle-like, and the tentacles lunged for her, extending further than she expected with a rubbery elasticity. She fired, splattering obsidian flesh in bursts of purple blood, yet there were more than expected and one caught her ankle. 

In one swift motion, the tentacle snapped back, carrying her across the field and yanking her down into the depths of the well as its mouth opened wider, showing rows of needle teeth filling it all the way down its gullet.

Silence, then gunshots echoed out along with further splatters.

Soon enough, Bonnie pulled herself free of the well and landed on the ground, her coat in tatters and her clothes faintly smoking. Acidic saliva was never pleasant.

She pushed herself up, then snapped into motion the instant she felt a rumble beneath herself.

Once she made it a far enough distance, she grimaced to see half a dozen bloated blobs of tentacled flesh extending out from the dirt, like ebony pustules across some creature’s back. And then it dawned on her that she was far more correct than she had realized as the soil shifted and a massive thing pushed itself up from the dirt. 

Crab legs pushed the beast up, black flesh visible at the joints in the segmented limbs. A gray shell, wide like a flat rock, turned with the beast as a seventh mouth opened like a flower on its underside, tongues like roots extending as it turned to face Bonnie with a trio of orb-like eyes on its front, as black as midnight.

The hunter made a mental note to demand future postings be far less vague as she leveled her rifle and aimed for the eyes.

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