I'm so used to including an image here, I thought I'd throw in a rendition of one of our youthful preoccupations. Bonnie and I have both been Dungeon Masters, years gone now, but D & D is still in the blood. There is something so powerful about creating a milieu, populating it, and watching as it plays itself out . . . In the end, it seems, all artistic endeavors seem to mimic and point the way to the original act of Creation.
Chapter One: The Chase
The tiny creature fled across the forest floor, avoiding the moonbeams that dappled the fallen leaves. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest as she exerted herself to the utmost in the attempt to escape her pursuer. Her bulging eyes of liquid jet searched through the shimmering shadows cast by the ancient trees for some means of concealment.
The night was alive with sounds, subdued and strident, but the soft, silvery creature had ears only for the barely perceptible rustling that followed in her wake. The chase seemed to have lasted for ages, although it had been only a short while, and exhaustion was beginning to nibble at the edges of the little creature's consciousness. She felt that she must find some shelter shortly, or she would surely perish.
Ahead, eerily limned in the limpid moonlight, a crumbling structure towered against the surrounding shapes of scabrous, moss-encrusted trees. Constructed of megaliths wrenched from the crust of the young planet, it crouched in a clearing like some silent and deadly beast waiting to spring upon its unsuspecting prey. Moonlight silvered the runnels of moisture coursing down its cracked and vine-covered sides.
The fleeing creature swerved to avoid a large black beetle that lumbered into her path, and almost lost her footing as she struck a slimy patch of leaf mold. Regaining her balance, she veered again as a gigantic obstruction loomed suddenly out of the dimness. As she ran, gasping, along the length of rugged blocks comprising the structure's graven walls, she perceived a slit of deeper darkness on her right, and darted unhesitatingly into the recess thus revealed. As she scurried along between the narrowing walls, she pricked up her ears, hoping against hope that she would hear nothing but the sweet sound of silence.
Faint, sinister slithering echoed along the constricted passage, dashing the tiny creature's fervent hope. She put on another burst of speed, careening into a vast, dimly lit open space that at first seemed as large as the forest she had so recently quit. Peering rapidly from side to side but never daring to slacken her frantic pace, she scrambled over tumbled slabs of stone and moist, roughened tree roots in her quest to escape her relentless pursuer.
Once again her tiny, aching paws slid in something slick and foul, but this time she could not right herself and tumbled headlong down a steep slope of sharpened shards of stone. She fetched up against a hanging vine covered with shaggy strips of peeling bark. Without thought for consequences, she bunched her hind muscles and leapt for the thick barrel of vegetation. As she gained a precarious purchase upon the vine, she spared a look back and, with a sinking feeling, saw a pair of vile, glittering eyes following in her wake.
The shivering creature scrambled fearfully up the vine, feeling a series of vibrations as a weight attached itself to the woody shaft. She felt that she could no longer go on, that her muscles must at any moment give out and leave her unable to avoid the dripping jaws of the predator that hounded her so mercilessly.
From an enormous dark-stained pedestal close by the vine, the creature detected a faint glimmering of purplish light. As the frightened and exhausted mouse stared at the light, attempting to determine if this was some new threat, the effulgence seemed to grow stronger and brighter. The source of the gleam appeared to be an object in the form of a modified torus, seemingly crafted from a single violet gem. Unaccountably, she felt drawn to it, as an iron filing to a magnet. Abruptly she flung herself from the vine and landed, sprawling, squarely atop the object.
With horrified fascination, the tiny mouse watched as a snake corkscrewed up the vine and rapidly reached a point not far above the platform upon which she crouched. As the fearsome fer-de-lance began to uncoil itself and extend its length outward, there came a flash from beneath the quailing rodent, and an electric sensation skittered through her body. Her eyes momentarily mirrored the iridescent violet hue which emanated from the crystalline object, and she sensed her exhaustion slowly draining away. She felt as if she had imbibed a refreshing elixir . . . and there was something more . . . something which she had never before experienced.
Before the mouse had time to fully analyze this new feeling, the reptile dropped sinuously to the tablet of stone and slithered toward her. Its fangs glittered evilly in the pale moonlight, and it seemed to be grinning as it prepared to strike.
Then the mouse did something that she had never before considered doing, an act completely foreign to her nature. She leapt directly at her enemy and connected with the snake's spine, her small toes seeking purchase at the interstices between the scales. She swiftly clambered up the length of the fer-de-lance as the reptile reflexively struck out at empty air. Stopping at a point just below the questing head, the mouse bared her own sharp little teeth and ferociously bit into the neck of the snake, which began to thrash, whipping its whole body back and forth and side to side. She hung on grimly, working her sharp incisors deeper and deeper beneath the squamous skin.
Blood began to seep, and then suddenly to spurt, from the deepening wound. The snake was now coiling and uncoiling rapidly, attempting to escape the unfamiliar and unwelcome sensation of pain. The furious paroxysms brought the pair of entwined combatants closer and closer to the edge of the platform upon which they battled, and another spasm sent them tumbling over the rim, plummeting toward the unyielding surface far below.
They struck a scree of shattered masonry and rolled down it, all unheeding of their danger, locked together in a struggle that surely only one could win.
As the fer-de-lance's head dipped to the rough ground and scraped along the stones, twisting and rolling, the mouse was carried along and dragged forward, the jagged surface clawing at her and inflicting upon her some agonizing abrasions. The pain caused her to relax her toes and release her grip, and she rolled away from the vicious writhing of the ravening reptile.
Yet again the snake struck out with its needled fangs, grazing the heaving flank of the exhausted yet exhilarated rodent. Then a look almost of surprise passed swiftly across the evil visage of the fer-de-lance and, as the copious flow of its precious lifeblood slowed to a trickle, its formerly golden, glittering eyes began to film over and their lids drooped, then slowly closed. A last shudder passed through the length of its body, and it lay forever still.
The mouse, sore and bleeding, crouched for an unknown time watching for any sign of movement from the dead reptile, ready to spring away at the slightest stirring. But there came none, and eventually the tiny warrior crawled slowly into the shadow of the entablature that stood serenely in the center of the room and hunkered down to sleep. She was completely unaware that far above her, the crystalline torus continued to glow dimly with a chill interior light.
Well, I guess this represents the first "official publication" of my work. I'm not going to beg, but any writer appreciates some feedback, and I hope those of you who read this will offer at least a little.
I thought I would toss in this small tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, and this one's for you, Albert.
The mice run swift beneath the moon and none of us is safe.
Observe them now as they converge upon a hapless waif.
Their glaring eyes, their fearsome teeth; she doesn't stand a chance -
The fevered orb shines brightly down upon their vict'ry dance.
No longer do they crouch and hide within the shadows deep
but boldly fare they forth in hordes to hunt us as we sleep.
No longer timid, shy, and meek, they've overcome their fear
and we've become their chosen prey. Beware! for they lurk near.
That's all for tonight, folks. Be here again for another thrilling installment. Peace.
All content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005