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Mythos Nocturnal

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Episode 3

In the utter darkness of the cave mouth I could feel a breeze blowing into my face. The choices before me ran through my mind swiftly. Below me in the inky water waited a creature of great size. Even now I could hear it moving in the water, the sounds alone telling of enormous bulk. If I left this cave, climbing the very tall cliff above would afford me my only escape, if the hand and foot holds continued upward and my strength held out. The darkness of this terrible place surrounded me and I could not imagine climbing upward blindly, not knowing what I would encounter with only my hands to guide me. My last alternative stretched out in front of me; a cave I could sense by the feel of my hands and the wind upon my skin. But what evil lurked inside of it?

I considered sitting down where I was and waiting, but the thought sent a chill down my spine. What would find me if I chose to stay at this cave mouth? Surely something. The slosh of water below me made up my mind. I moved forward feeling with my hands and found the cave roof and sides. Walking in a hunch so as not to knock my head I crept forward, listening every few steps for the sound that would surely come, some new monster rushing toward me. Time passed terribly slowly as I pushed onward but the breeze in my face gave me hope. It had to come from the other end of the cave. The passage I traveled down meandered some and once I passed by a place where water dripped. Other than that I heard no sounds beyond a lonely cricket far off somewhere. Twice I came to passages that led off from the one I traveled but no breeze came from them and so I passed them by. Two hours might have passed when I heard the first of the sounds.

I stopped and listened intently. Had I heard an echo of my own footsteps? The sound had come as a grating of a shoe on dirt. I took one cautious step and decided I had spooked myself. Several minutes later however, I heard the sound again, and this time I knew I was not alone. The grating of feet on dirt had come rapidly, more rapid than my own walking pace. I took in a breath of fear. I had gone deep into this unknown cave and the footsteps had come from behind me, I felt certain. I ran the sound through my mind but I could not determine the weight of whoever or whatever followed. Fearfully I moved forward with greater speed. The result came as I heard more sounds behind me. Whatever followed increased its speed and I then heard a kind of snort, perhaps like a dog taking a scent it did not like. My fears had come true. Something inhabited the cave and it was not human.

Then came the breathing, heavy and with the sound of interest. Delight? Was I to be a meal? I rushed forward blindly and only managed to collide with one of the walls which created a loud sound and I even grunted out. Behind me I heard a growl and in desperation I turned to face whatever was coming. I had no weapons and I wore only a rather wet set of pajamas. I backed down the passage around the turn I found there as sounds of my pursuer grew closer. Something changed but at that moment I did not know what it was. I only knew that this thing had almost reached me. Behind me my foot found a ledge and without turning around I felt for a foothold. There was none. Then around the corner came the beast.

It strode on two legs and wore clothing like battered leather. Its face appeared red and as it saw me it opened its mouth and exposed a savage set of teeth. It's shoulders were wide and though its body might not have been taller than my own. It wrinkled its snout and spread its arms out, each one ending with powerful hands bearing sharp nails. In my horror I stepped back and met with empty air.

I reacted at once and caught the ledge I had just stepped off of just as the creature lunged forward. Too late to stop its own momentum, it rushed over me, and as it did it shouted out in gruff surprise. The shout turned quickly to dismay as it passed over my head and fell away behind my back. As it fell it cried out and my own terror increased as I realized the drop below me must be immense.

I gripped at the ledge in a panic and one of my toes found a crag in the rock. I pulled my self up and rolled onto my back in relief. My head spun with the fright of what had just transpired but in the next instant I caught my breath. Above me I could see several feet of a rock face going upward, lit by soft red light. I could see.

I rolled swiftly onto my belly and peered over the cliff from which the beast had just fallen. I gaped. Hundreds of feet below me lay three large lakes of red. The light emanating from them hit the walls dully around where I lay but here and there in the distance I caught other reflections. Though the lakes glowed dully indeed, in the utter darkness I had just come through they seemed to glow brightly. Looking up I found only one point of reflection which I quickly lost sight of, but it was enough to inform me I looked upon an immense cavern, a mile across and perhaps five hundred feet from ceiling to floor.

I looked straight down in order to see where the fearsome beast had landed and only found darkness. I guessed it did not matter so long as it had died and did not come for me again. Four beasts now I had encountered, all of them impossible. I thought of my tiny poodle Fritz and my heart sank. Surely he had already met a terrible end.

"You have done well," said a voice from behind me.

I shouted out in shock and found myself flying up onto my feet in a violent reaction. There in the dim light of the lakes below stood a man who reached only up to my chest. He held a long dangerous looking knife out in front of him and as I jumped up he backed away a step and waved it about threateningly. My next reaction was to look him over and at once my shoulders sagged. This man was not human. He bore a pronounced brow and a rather large looking mouth filled with large flat teeth and his eyes, though I can not quite say why, seemed alien as well. Perhaps they were too large or deep set.

"That ogre hunted me in this cave," said the man. "What is your purpose?"

My mind swam with confusion. Should I respond? Would this creature soon try to kill me? Desperately I tried to come to a conclusion but only found myself thinking that I would have to escape this new danger.

I answered, "I'm passing by."

"With what purpose?" demanded the man as though I had not answered satisfactorily.

I thought quickly and into my mind came the sound of the beast that had chased me into the cave.

"I came here to escape the swamp," I said.

"You came from the swamp?" he asked, and seemed surprised.

"I fell into it," I said, the words coming out of me almost of their own accord. "A snake chased me off the cliff above."

The man then made a displeased face and said, "They have loosed snakes upon the Bleak Farthing?"

But it came as a statement rather than a question and I waited because I did not know what effect I had created.

He looked me over then and asked, "Did you lose your weapon in the fall?"

I looked to his long knife and lied, "Yes."

"Do you know the way to the top?" he asked.

I looked behind me at the glowing lakes below and turned back to him, saying, "I need to go down to these lakes."

He nodded as if understanding something but I knew not what, for my purpose was to get to these lakes so that I could see danger coming my way if it came. Then I would have a chance of defending myself and surviving.

"I will show you a path," he said. "If you like you can have a meal with me first. I have a fire inside."

I wanted to run away but the offer meant that perhaps this man meant me no harm. Perhaps. I realized I would take my chances when I heard myself answering that I would join him for his meal.

He turned away and strode into the pitch black tunnel as if it offered him no troubles and hesitated. Thoughts of distrust and fear crowded my mind but mostly I noted that the man who would be serving me dinner had quite a bit of lizard tale coming off his back end.


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Revised November 19, 2002
by David Kraybill
©2002 Beard-Kraybill Studios