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Mythos Nocturnal

A serial by Brad Beard Select Episode: Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Episode 4 Episode 5 Episode 6 Episode 7
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Episode 4

I moved nervously after my guide as the very dim light of the red lakes faded. In the utter darkness of the cave I again used my hands to find my way. I heard the man in front of me -or creature I suppose- moving. Only by his sounds could I follow. My stomach tightened as I wondered what would become of me. How could I trust this being whom I followed? His inhuman face disturbed me not to mention his tail! As yet however, he had not tried to harm me. Once while I followed I heard him stop and I cocked my head listening. He emitted a sigh and I heard him continue walking. Then as I was sure I had nearly caught up to him, the sounds of his movement stopped altogether. Had I been tricked?

In the next moment however, the light of a fire became unveiled as he lifted some dark metal hood away from a pit. The fire was of glowing coals and small branches of burning wood and to my eyes it now seemed a bright and welcome light. The man-creature set the hood aside and, giving me a glance, he sat down upon the dirt of the cave floor. I realized then that the firelight barely lit up his face while its light reached the cave roof but illuminated it very little. The distance it cast its light to the sides also seemed rather short. With the oppression of this gloomy place weighing down upon me again. I lowered myself into a cross-legged sitting position across from him. Once seated I looked up to the man across from me. Though the light glowed meagerly, I could see his face. He sat there looking at me with a scrutiny that at once removed all of the shallow comfort I had felt. Though I did not know how, this man had seen through the pretenses I had attempted. The gnarled little man I had met upon my arrival had told me I did not belong here. Clearly this being across from me had decided the same.

I sat looking back at him saying nothing. I believed anything I said would most likely put me further into trouble. The man took me in and said nothing for several seconds. Then finally he spoke.

"You are blind. How is it that the waters have failed you so completely?"

Though I understood his words, the meaning of his words was lost to me. What did water and blindness have to do with one another. I clenched my jaw as I summoned up my courage. I would have to use this moment of relative safety to find out more about my situation.

I asked, "Can you not tell why from my appearance?"

Surely, if no one here was human, my body would be alien to him.

He looked me up and down and finished at my face. "Your pupils are gaping," he said. "Only that. But I saw that as you followed me you could not see."

I let out a quiet sigh. Perhaps he knew of humans. Perhaps there were others here in this dark place. Then another, grimmer thought came to me. Was my body one of many? So many one could accept any shape with a shrug?

I dared yet another reach.

"I am lost," I said. "I'm looking for my home. It had more light than this."

He frowned in such a way that I knew I had spoken outside of his reality. "You are in the Bleak Farthing," he said as if my comment of being lost confused him. "Which farthing is your home?"

I had talked my way into a corner in a matter of a minute. I knew my mouth opened but nothing came out. Then in the next instant I said quickly, "I live at the edge of the Bleak Farthing. I can't find my way back."

"Back?" he asked, seeming mildly disturbed.

I considered that I should stop talking. How could I hope to avoid mistakes in this completely alien place? I changed my tack. I felt I had reached the end of my rope and I needed to know what I could expect from this being.

Bluntly, I asked, "Are you preparing to kill me?"

He frowned and then turned away. It seemed his own thoughts troubled him for some reason. Nervousness crept over me again.

He reached behind himself into the darkness and when his hand reappeared, it had in it some form of animal. It had four legs but it had been skinned and I could not identify it. Though it was the size of a cat, it was not one. Nor, I realized, was it my poodle Fritz, for which I was grateful. Of course, most cats were bigger than Fritz. The thought used to make me laugh but here, it made me sad, knowing Fritz had probably met a quick and violent end. The man in front of me took the skinned animal and put it over the fire, at which point I realized he had it upon a spit. As the meat began to sizzle he looked up to me.

"There is a trail that leads down to the lakes," he said. "It is to the right of the ledge on which I found you. You must turn down the passage to the right before you reach the ledge."

"Thank you," I said.

He went on however.

"You do not belong here in Nocturnus. That I can tell. How you came here I can only guess." He gave me a grave look. "And do not tell me how. Do not tell anyone how. You must leave Nocturnus in any way you can. Avoid servants of the Queen. Avoid her captain, Morgust, though you do not need me to tell you that. You will know it upon seeing him if you are so unfortunate. And if you do not understand already, then I will tell you. Keep on the move. Do not speak of having a home because it will mark you as different."

He gave me yet another look which I found curious; a grim, solemn look.

"I would have killed you if things were different, if I had enough time left to care."

I stared at him then, taking in his words and wondering what he meant.

"Time?" I asked.

He gave me a look which told me I had given myself away again.

"What will you do in Nocturnus?" he asked me.

I waited as I thought. If ever I had been asked a loaded question this was surely it.

Finally I said, "My intention is to leave."

He gave me a small nod then tore off one of the creatures legs and tossed it to me. I realized at once how hungry I was and began to eat ravenously. When I had finished he threw me another and I ate it almost as quickly as the first.

I had nearly finished when he asked me, "And how do you intend to leave?"

He knew something; something I did not know.

"Can you help me?" I asked.

"It is too late for that," he said. "I have been here in this cave for too long already."

I frowned, not understanding.

A chill then came over me and I felt uneasy. His eyes went sidelong as though he might be listening but he was not.

"Do you remember all that I have told you?" he asked me.

"Yes," I answered.

"Remember also my name," he said. "I am Lucon."

My uneasiness increased and I shifted about where I sat. I looked to this man and wondered what would come next. I felt as though somehow I had come closer to danger.

Then he muttered, "Or so I was Lucon."

"What?" I asked but my attention could not stay upon the conversation.

I stood and looked about as the hairs rose upon the back of my neck. I peered intently into the darkness beyond the fire light and then at Lucon.

"What's happening?" I demanded.

I had become afraid and I understood that it was not this man who was causing it.

"You have all the perceptions you will need to survive in Nocturnus," he replied.

His voice had an edge to it however and I knew he too felt whatever it was.

Then he said, "Are you going to run or are you going to die with me?"

My eyes went wide.

"What is it?" I said with growing fear. "What's coming?"

He only looked at me and suddenly I knew that something was coming and that it was near. Too near. I realized that this man before me had no intention of running. This fire and his company offered me no safety. The feeling of something terrible looming near overcame me and I turned and bolted from him.

As I rushed away I heard him say, "Shadow."

I heard no more and in a true panic I ran down the passageway. I struck the walls in my haste but I did not care as terror had overtaken me. Then behind me I heard a scream and I knew somehow that it came from Lucon. It had the tone of true horror and despair and it carried on in an aching long wail. The sound tore through me and I felt the agony of the scream as though its sound soaked into my very flesh. The sensation of terrible fear hurt me as though it had physical substance and I let forth my own terrified shout despite myself. I knew in my heart that Lucon had died a death more horrible than anything of which I had ever heard or imagined.

Suddenly I found my eyes looking down upon the red lakes at the bottom of the giant cavern. I stopped just in time to keep from pitching over the edge and the long drop below. I waived my hands about to regain my balance as I rose up on my toes. Horror still blasted against my back as though it might be some kind of wind and the thought of jumping came to me. I knew, though I do not know how, that jumping would be better than being found by the hideous thing which had killed Lucon.

Somewhere inside of me sanity won the battle and I rocked back onto my heels. Then I turned away from the lakes and looked back into the cave. The pathway down to the lakes below was somewhere back inside the passageway. I now had a choice. I could jump to my death or I could go back inside this cave mouth where lurked the most horrible thing I had ever perceived.


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