Insect chirps and the quiet putter of the the motorboat's engine were all that could be heard as Caleb slowly but surely continued his way upstream. The sights, sounds, and smell of the steamship wreak were now all but a distant memory, left behind and discarded at the bottom of the rushing river. Time had lost all relevance for Caleb. If anyone were left alive to ask him how long it had been since he had embarked on this new phase of his journey, he honestly would not have been able to convey a decent answer to them. Everything had been lost to the hours of minor steering corrections that had slowly began to swallow his mind whole.
Caleb closed his eyes, and found that he had remarkable trouble getting them open again. His whole body seemed to be shutting down. Part of it might well have been the amount of alcohol he had consumed earlier, but truth be told that was hours ago now. Part of it might simply have been his descent from the bloodlust, the fires that burned so readily going back to the cool embers which never fully became extinguished, but in the end it was also true that he was already quite used to that. Maybe it was just the monotony of his present task. Caleb unwittingly found that his eyelids were sealed shut once more, and did his best to force them ajar again with a considerable amount of physical effort.
He won the battle but lost the war, and before long he was slumped over his controls, the boat now moving about on a will of its own. When he did finally awake again he found himself to no longer be in the position that he once was; instead of sitting at the front of the boat steering as he had been when he passed out, he was now laying with his head back towards the rear of the vessel. When he brought his body forth again he saw that all about him was now obscured by a thick moist fog. The chirrup of the insects had only become more intense, and through the gloom he could see the vague outline of trees on either shore, far closer than they had ever been before. The putter of the motorboat had also long since ceased, meaning that it was no longer being driven under its own power.
It was then that he noticed something grinning at him from the front of the boat. In the darkness and the fog it was hard to tell, but the anemic little lantern it was holding made its presence known sure enough. Caleb sat himself up and stared at it. The fog lifted just enough to reveal its full form to him, and what a form it was. It was the kind of thing that would make anyone sit up and pay attention, even undead demigods like Caleb. Even with the fog gone most of it was still shrouded in mystery, the long cloak it wore covering most of it from head to toe. It was not so much what he could not see that caused Caleb so much concern however, but rather it was what little that he could actually discern that caused him so much alarm.
The thing was not really grinning at him at all. To do that would imply an actual effort on the figure's part to achieve that effect. Its teeth shown merely due to absence of flesh on the face, instead of being drawn back through deliberate effort as would normally be the case. Caleb's first thought was of the spectral Phantasms that still sometimes appeared to chase after him in order to regain what they felt they had lost, but this thing whatever it was was clearly different. While Caleb continued to stare intently at the figure, the form itself seemed largely to have ignored him, steering the boat on its own prescribed course while showing little concern about its only other occupant. There was something entirely different going on here.
"Who are you?" Caleb asked finally, not content with continuing the silence any longer. Still the thing did not make any attempt to react, appearing to stare at him from its end of the boat despite the fact it had nothing to stare with due to the vacuous gaps present in both of its empty eye sockets. "What do you want with me?" Caleb tried again, hoping to coax out a response.
"Nothing" came the form's unearthly reply. Caleb had heard more discouraging answers to that particular question in the past.
"Why are you here?" he inquired, not willing to lose the sudden burst of momentum that he had so abruptly gained with the figure.
"Searching" the form offered, but seemed unwilling to divulge anything more. Caleb then remembered one of the tales that he had been told by one of the locals before he had set off on this journey, something about an ancient swamp where Death itself steered a boat in search of lost souls and unwary travellers. The fog continued to lift, and before long Caleb had at least part of this vision realized as it became quite clear that in a swamp they were. Eventually the boat pulled up alongside a boggy patch of land, and Caleb decided that it would be best for him make his stay here as brief as possible. He hopped off the motorboat and onto the soft squishy earth.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die." Caleb turned around surprised, not expecting the form to address him again. It continued to stare at him in its own strange not actually grinning sort of way. "As has been before so we have met again, as shall continue until the very end. Farewell chosen one." With that, the figure navigated the boat away through the again growing fog, propelling it only through some force of its own devising.
"Little thing like death never stopped me..." Caleb observed calmly, before spinning on his heels and continuing on his way. He still had a long walk ahead him.
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Some might recall that I had previously made mention as part of the Blood Wiki's sixth anniversary that I had plans to once again invest some of my time in an area of Blood fandom that I had formerly been quite involved in. To that end I present Scroll, a story I originally began in the summer of 2008 as a kind of retelling of the story behind Cryptic Passage in an attempt to bring it further in line with the main Blood canon. Designed to be published in multiple parts, I shall endeavour to release a new instalment of Scroll every Sunday from March 9th on until the story is complete.