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Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists. Evren found it hard to grow callous to war. He walked aimlessly through the forest, just east of the Bay of Bothnia where he’d left a small fishing boat and a few bloodless corpses on an empty beach. Fingertips traced unmarred skin and the vampire clenched his arms in front of his chest, feeling suddenly short of breath. Jagged, malformed scars covered old wounds just beneath his ever-changing visage, and as he wandered north into the Finnic wilds, his centuries-old injuries gnawed at his bones and wracked his whole body with pain, as if trying to open anew and tear through his form to destroy him. He thought the free cities would be safe, until riot broke out in Donauwörth during a peaceful procession. He considered fleeing to Dänemark, until he learned that their Lutheran king was lusting after war just as badly as every other European lord.
In the midst of it all, the Swedes had built an empire that encompassed all of Fennoscandia. Evren’s body physically ached for the solitude of the Norse woodlands in a last-ditch effort to find relief from a war-torn world. The war may reach the Swedes, sure, but no power could truly tame the whole region; it was vast and mountainous, lush with forests and lakes teeming with the oldest magicks, older even than the shifting vampire who thirsted for them.
His shaking legs carried him to the edge of a small lake, surrounded on all sides by forest with distant mountain peaks just visible over the treetops. He fell gracelessly to his knees onto the muddy bank and drank deeply from the glassy water. Evren wasn’t sure if vampires had genuine need for water as a human might, but his dry throat persuaded him so. Taking deep breaths as he pulled back, Evren let the water settle so he could see a reflection of himself. He was tall, pale and a bit gaunt with tired blue eyes and thin lips. His curly dark brown hair was cropped short to his head, barely hanging over his freckled forehead. He had tried to look like a Norseman, though in truth he didn’t know how to look like much more than a pale German peasant. Hopefully it would be a close enough approximation that he wouldn’t rouse suspicion from whatever humans he encountered.
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In the depths of a nameless lake lurked a creature. Forever hungry, it lured unfortunate travellers into its domain, devouring them without a second thought. This was the way of the Näkki, the Nøkken, the Nixie. Once drowned in the most gruesome ways, these former humans now plagued the thousands pure-water lakes of Fennoscandia, mere ghosts of their previous selves.
Children were their favourite. They were so fresh and innocent and easy to persuade. Still, the Näkki didn't discriminate. All human flesh was just as delicious, and as it happened, it had been a while since this particular one had had a hefty meal.
Hair long and deep green like the kelp of the sea, a vaguely humanoid figure nested at the bottom of the lake, merely waiting for her prey. A ripple in the water - small disturbance the creature noticed at once with its keen senses - alerted it. The creature of the lake opened its big, fishy eyes and began swimming swiftly towards the shore, webbed, bony fingers helping it along.

There it was. A figure on the surface. Someone, just waiting for the lake creature to snatch them under the surface. To lure it for a swim.
A man with curly brown hair was staring back at his reflection on the surface of the lake. His eyes were blue and tortured like the endless depths of the Finnish lakes. The nøkken swam closer, so quiet it didn't disturb the surface. It stopped just below the surface, its icy gray eyes and bony yet female-like visage curiously staring at the man, emerging in the place of his reflection like an eerie mirage.
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A few stray drops of water fell from his mouth to the water’s surface, creating ripples across the face within. Evren blinked once, twice, and stared back at the creature with equally wide-eyed vacancy. He moved to sit in a kneeling position so he could lift his hands from the mud and fold them in his lap.
”(And what happened to you?)” Evren asked in broken Swedish. He wasn’t sure if he cared about the lake dweller understanding him, but it occurred to him that those fishermen and the other Finnish peasants he’d encountered in his journey didn’t talk anything like the Lutheran Swedes he’d known in the past. He supposed it may be like the church’s use of Latin in Catholic nations across Europe, but hoped it had at least some mutual intelligibility. Maintaining steady eye contact with the woman, Evren did something foolhardy. He reached his muddied left hand into the water, making a slow but deliberate motion to touch her face.
Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Cio
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A sly smile took over the creature's face. Its reflection wavered like the rippling surface of the lake, almost ethereal, but still there. How would the creature lure this traveler into its domain? Would it invite the man for a swim, or would it ask for help? The favourite way of this particular lake demon was to pretend to be drowning. That lured good willed people into the lake in no time, unsuspecting of the demise they'd meet the moment they'd touch the creature.
"(The water is nice. Don't you want to refresh yourself with a swim? I'm so lonely without a friend.)" the creature spoke in a suggestive voice that barely matched the eerie look of it. The creature was careful not to come above the surface of the lake at all, staying low on the water of the shore, curious eyes examining its prey. The greenish hair flowed around its head like algae. The creature smiled seemingly innocently, blowing bubbles onto the surface playfully.
The man reached out to touch the creature's face, then. Its smile widened, large eyes not following the curving of its mouth. As soon as the man's hand pierced the surface of the water, the creature's hand shot out, grapping the man's wrist with a surprising force. Sharp, yellowish nails scraped the skin of the man's wrist. It was unnaturally cold to touch, not like the pulsing blood and warm meat the creature was oh so used to.
Still, like a well-oiled machine, the creature yanked the man into the lake with it all the while a giggle sounded from its lips, a young woman's laughter.
"(Come play, come play... the water is nice, why won't you meet your demise? Drown with me, drown.)"
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Kinjaav
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How I wish I could.
Evren practically let the Näkki drag him under the water, practically still until he felt his skin pierced by her claws. All at once he was violently protesting against her grasp as his visage was ripped away from him like a torn shirt. His struggling kicked up sediment as he tried to plant his feet somewhere solid, searching for some leverage to throw the assailant off. Desperate to escape his vulnerable form he made a wild bite for her arm, inhaling a mouthful of water as he let his massive, uneven fangs sink into her sallow flesh. He didn’t want to drink of her or turn her, if even he could; he just wanted to shift back out of his miserable skin, and he didn’t care how many watery breaths it took to get back on the shore, to change again, to get out of this skin.
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The creature shrieked at the forceful bite. It was well used to the prey sturggling for their freedom, oh yes, that's what made them all the more delicious. But no one had ever bitten it. Confused, the lake creature let go and retreated back, hurt across the fishy features of its face.
The man was struggling to get to shore. Wait. The man was... Different. He looked totally different, the creature noticed with a curious look on its face.
Instead of retreating further to lick its wounds, the Näkki floated curiously closer to the surface.
"(You are not human, are you? Are you? What do you want with my lake? It is mine, mine, mine!)" a distinctly female voice purred with bubbles blowing out of its mouth.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Kinjaav
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The body that dragged itself onto the shady lakeshore to vomit water looked more like a well-preserved cadaver than a living being. Evren’s freckled complexion replaced by shriveled and pock-marked skin the color and texture of pallid leather. He had a few patches of coarse white hair on his head but he was mostly bald, with a scraggly unkempt beard and wild eyebrows. His clothes hung off of his malnourished frame, wet and clinging to his very bony torso. A gnarled hand clutched his wounded wrist, blood seeping between his fingers as the hollow-eyed creature winced in pain and sucked in a breath between stained fangs. Icy black eyes opened and stared death into Aava. ”(You witch! How stupid are you?! Can’t you sense your own?)”
Evren stopped himself; he’d been shouting in German, and realized that wouldn’t get him anywhere. This water wench couldn’t eat him and he couldn’t eat her, even if he’d wanted to, so he settled on recalling some of his victims' words to try and make some sense to her. Tämä hirviö! Veren juomari, verenimijä!" He gritted his teeth to snarl at her and continued as best he could in Swedish. "(But you've done what they couldn't, broken my mask and revealed this wretched monster to the daylight. I hope you're proud of yourself.)" He wasn't making a lot of sense, but his anger and panic were plain across his weathered face.
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The creature stared at the rotten visage of a man, blinking with its big empty eyes. What was he talking about? The creature crunched up its nose and emerged from under the surface, revealing the top half of its head to air for the first time in a long time. Back at it stared the man with deep black eyes, an inhuman look that made the creature almost back away. Yet it stood its ground.
"(Bloodsucker? What does this mean? This is my lake. Mine!)" the creature replied with a fierce pout, its yellowed, sharp teeth revealed in a snarl to the man. It sounded both like a child having a tantrum and a grown adult trying to establish boundaries.
"(You are different, land dweller. Different, cold meat, changing flesh. Who are you? What do you want with my lake?)"
The creature floated closer, its gleaming icy gray eyes blinking at the equally enraged man before it.
Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Kinjaav
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"Minun minun minun! (Is that all you know, demon?)" Evren taunted as he backed himself up to a tree. He looked at the cut on his arm; it was already starting to heal, but he couldn't change form again until it did. He could only blame himself, provoking some unknown creature in its element was, well, stupid of him.
Fleeing Bavaria was lonely business. It was hard to adjust to the isolating wilderness of this world after spending so many years in the states of Holy Rome, even if he was picking up on the new languages somewhat quickly. The villages were so tiny and insular, with no place for an outsider like himself. He had no idea how he would feed without rousing suspicion among whole populations. He groaned and closed his eyes, sinking to the ground and dragging his yellowish talons across the dirt, pulling up blades of grass while he listened to the water devil ask more and more probing questions that he could hardly understand.

Kylmä liha.
Cold meat.

He understood that; he'd heard it in the village where he met the sailors. He sat up to respond, unflinchingly meeting her gaze. "Kylmä liha, kylmä verta. Vampyyri." Evren pointed to his wound and then to himself.
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Vampyyri.

The creature had heard that. It had been... A long time, a different life, life before drowning in the lake. A warning of a friendly figure. Warm. Mother.
The creature floated closer as the angry man backed up against a tree. The creature was still defensive, but it's stubborn anger seemed to wear off and give room for understanding. The creature stared at the man with its huge, curious eyes.
He had been shouting in a strange language before. The creature couldn't understand it, but... Adapt. That was what the Näkki did. Adapt, learn, lure people in. It was their skill to copy and change to get their prey.
"(They call me Aava, they do. You are not human. I am not human. But we are not the same, no. Not the same,)" Aava spoke in German.
Aava took a mouthful of the clear lake water into her mouth and looked at the man, shooting a stream of water from her mouth. It fell short, but it hadn't been meant to hit the man in the first place.
"(This... This is my lake. I am the Näkki of this lake. Why do you wander here, if not to drown?)"
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Hidden 2 mos ago 1 mo ago Post by Kinjaav
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Evren curled into himself at the base of the tree, clutching his wounded hand to his chest. He hissed in pain but hearing German caught his attention, and he directed his curious gaze back to Aava and listened intently to her.
A bit perplexed, he nodded in response to her first statement. He was fairly sure that some magic was at play, or he perhaps he was having an auditory hallucination and this ‘Aava’ hadn’t actually said a word of German; it was just nice to have company. “It’s my burden to wander, as it’s yours to be confined to this lake. We’re more alike than you think; voracious demons, doomed to kill innocents until Judgement so we can suffer damnation ever after.” Evren pulled his hand away from his side to inspect his wound again. It had healed considerably, practically stitching itself together before his eyes. Traces of blood remained against his skin. It was an inky crimson, not bright and viscous like that of a mortal, leaving maroon snail-slime trails on his arm. “Plenty of that in Norse land, evils and old magicks, but I suppose a witch like you would already know that.”
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Cio
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Aava gurgled, almost offended.
"(I am no witch, I'm just a little fish in a lake,)" she responded genuinely, her huge eyes narrowing into icy slits. Aava tried to crawl as close to land as she could, plopping her bony forearms on the shore as the rest of her stayed underwater.
"(So then, who are you? Who? My whispers sound like another language to you, you must be a man from far away,)" Aava contemplated. She didn't actually speak German, of course, but Näkkis' skill of persuasion included the skill of illusion. Illusion of physical form as well as speech.
"(Doesn't wandering get tiresome? I feel at ease in my little lake. My precious lake. Why would one ever want to leave?)" Aava wondered, her neck joint cracking as she bent her head to the side. Now the creature was more curious than anything, hunger long forgotten. This man before her was something new and strange. Something... not edible, for sure. So maybe it was a new playmate?
Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Kinjaav
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So, it was a bit of trickery and a bit of insanity. Seemed appropriate. ”I’m not from anywhere, little fish; I’ve lived many lives and walked many paths. I’ve had many names, fought many wars, and been dead long enough to grow very weary.”
Evren listened to her further, and chuckled humorlessly when she asked if wandering was tiresome. He inspected his hand again and was pleased to see it healed, and wiped the drying blood off on the grass beside him. ”Many things are tiresome, but wandering isn’t so bad. Sometimes it’s nice enough I forget what I am.” Evren stood up and returned to his previous form, the unassuming German peasant materializing over his ghoulish body as if nothing had happened. ”What about you, little fish? Doesn’t your lake get boring?”
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Wandering... That sounded dangerous indeed.
Aava sunk even lower below the surface, shaking her head comfortably.
"(No... Why would I get bored of my lake? It's my lake)," Aava responded rather defensively. She was comfortable in her own domain, so why leave? She didn't know anything else. And the land... it was dry, harsh and not at all as smooth as the water she habited.
"(The story goes that there was a girl who swam too far into the lake. The water of the lake was deep and cold, she swam too far and drowned alone. But the lake hadn't been claimed yet, so the drowned girl stayed. Tales of the näkki followed, warning the children of the monster in the rushes, warning them not to pick up the clam shells washed to the shore. 'They are the näkki's shoes,' they would tell. But really they're just gifts from the drowned. The girl is still there somewhere, but not a girl anymore. The memories of the land fading away, there's nothing but the lake. My lake)," Aava purred, head bopping from under the surface, slimy hands stretching across the rocky shore, continuing to lean on it.
"(In the lake, all of them forget. You want to forget too, yes?)"
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Hidden 23 days ago Post by Kinjaav
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“Quite a legend, Aava.” Evren said, quite stunned after hearing her story. He was quite sure he knew what became of that girl, and he was in equal measure awed and horrified by the magic of this place.
He considered Aava’s offer and hesitantly outstretched his hand to meet the tips of her fingers against the rocks. He didn’t quite hold her hand, it was looser than that, more a clumsy grasp at contact with someone who might be a little like him. He withdrew as soon as he’d reached out, getting to his feet and casting his gaze out to the lake. It sounded too good to be true. Hell, it was too good to be true; there was no escaping what he was, not even for a moment. Every step he’d taken in these hundreds of years had only made him more aware of the monster he was, of the judging watch he was under with every life he took. Even knowing all that… the water looked inviting. It wouldn’t work, but, perhaps he could just try and feel something else today. His waterlogged clothes felt heavy against his false frame. God, anything else.
Evren smiled at Aava; a bit weary, a bit defeated, a bit good humored. ”Okay, little fish; I’ll come join you.” Without disrobing or discarding his ruined clothes he took a few steps into the water until he was waist deep in the glassy lake, hard-soled shoes clumsily finding purchase against the mud rocks. His smile widened and grew mischievous, and finding himself waist-deep in the water he dove forward and plunged fully beneath the glassy surface. Certainly a much more pleasant swim than his first.
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