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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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The light of the red lakes glowed dimly at my side as I faced the woman in front of me. The horn in the middle of her forehead reminded me again that I need beware for here was a creature not human. If she did not aid me I would be on my own and so far that had led me only to disaster. I thought quickly for a response to her demand for payment but I could think of nothing. I could tell from her expression she already had guessed my predicament.

"I have nothing," I said and then gave her a part of the whole truth. "A snake chased me off a cliff into the swamp and I lost all that I was carrying."

Her expression told me of disapproval but then she said, "They have sent snakes to hunt the Bleak Farthing? Treachery."

I waited a moment more and then in desperation I said, "Can you at least point out to me which direction to go?"

She sighed then and it had the sound of many worries within it. She said, "That will not be necessary. If the snakes prowl above we should not go alone. I will grant you guidance on the merit that Lucon trusted you enough to advise you. At our first opportunity we will also need to find some form of weapon for you."

She began to walk at once and she chose a direction headed almost directly away from where I had come. I breathed a sigh of relief as I recalled the all too recent encounter with the terrifying presence in the caves behind us. She walked past me and without questioning I followed. I took in her form and found her most human looking from behind. She wore a sleeveless shirt and a pair of pants tucked into thick boots while around her waist she wore a kind of short skirt over the pants. Her dark hair went past her shoulders some and she walked with one hand on top of her hammer often. As we traveled across the floor of the great cavern I chose to think of her as fully human and tried to push away the picture of her horn. We walked a well worn path across the cavern floor and I felt sure we headed for the great cliff I could see dimly in front of us. Behind us the drumming continued, filling the cavern with a dull booming.

Then as we walked an idea formed in my head and I at once took to it because I needed more information about this place called Nocturnus.

Waiting no more, I said, "I am in a bit of trouble. Lucon understood somewhat my problem. Although I do not know how, I struck my head upon something and I have lost much of my memory. I know who I am but little more."

She turned as she walked and gave me a stare full of scrutiny.

She faced forward again and I proceeded. "Can you please tell me what lies beyond the Bleak Farthing?"

"Beyond the Bleak Farthing?" she repeated. "Of all the foul things. You want me to teach you."

"I am a little desperate," I said. "Will you oblige me?"

She sighed angrily and said, "You will repay me for this some day." But then after several more steps she delivered a terse explanation. "To one side of the Bleak farthing is the High Farthing, to the other side the Labyrinth Farthing. Across the sea, the Stone Farthing."

"The sea?" I said in wonder.

She mistook my tone perhaps and said, "You remember well enough to fear the sea. You have not lost all your wits."

I tried to picture what she had told me in my mind. As the image slowly formed I frowned. I knew that a farthing was a quarter of a land holding; at least in my world. She had not told me all. Unless each farthing went for an infinite distance, it would have an outer boundary.

"What lies beyond the farthings?" I asked.

She stopped in her tracks and turned upon me. I could see her face, dimly lit in red and in her eyes there was a fearsome glare.
"You stood nearby as Lucon died and you still ask me this?" she demanded. "There is not a soul alive in Nocturnus who does not know where the farthings end. They end in darkness. They end were no man or beast can go. They end in Shadow. You try me, stranger. You try me dearly. Be silent if you wish me to lead you further."

"I am sorry," I said with sincerity.

She gave me a hostile look and then turned away. As she began to walk again I followed.

Darkness. Nocturnus ended in darkness? I now pictured a land with a sea at its center and darkness ringing its outer borders. I could not understand it. Had I not been in darkness my whole time here? Was not all of Nocturnus in darkness? As I followed my guide, I chewed on this new revelation.

The tall cliff in front of us neared as we walked in silence and then ahead in the cliff face I saw an opening. The woman in front of me seemed to be aiming for it. We would leave here through tunnels then. I looked up the tall cliff face and up to the ceiling dimly lit in red and I stopped in my tracks.

"I can see," I gasped.

And it was true. Whereas before I could only see a single glint of light reflected from the cavern top, I could not see nearly all of it. Upon its curving surface stalactites pointed down, red lit from the lakes below.

I found my guide staring at me.

This time however, the scrutiny in her glare disturbed me.

"The waters restored your sight," she said icily. "As one would expect."

My smile faded and I explained, "I have had a day more difficult than most."

"Yes," she said, sounding both accusing and unconvinced.

She again turned and walked away.

Before long we reached a path that rose up off the floor of the cavern. It led in several switch backs up the cliff face until we reached the opening in the side.

"Wait here," she said. "Last I was here a trap had been laid in this passage. We will have to go another way if I find any signs of another one."

She began to go into the cave mouth and I said quickly, "Will you come back?"

She scowled at me and did not grant me an answer. She strutted into the darkness of the passage and to my delight I could follow her with my eyes for nearly ten paces. I smiled to myself as I realized my potential for survival had risen considerably. I waited for my guide several minutes with my spirits higher than they had been since arriving in this odd land and a song came into my head which sang of the sun. Without thinking I began to whistle it. I had gone perhaps ten notes when I stopped cold.
The sound had struck this world as something alien. It had bounced off the stone beside me and reverberated off the walls of the passage my guide had just taken. The sound of my own whistle had come to my ears as though it might have broken the very air itself, an air which had never carried such notes. I heard the last of my whistle as it went into the passageway and then to my dismay I heard it echo back to me from afar, from somewhere within the cavern itself. Though I do not know why, it also seemed to hum within the cliff face for a brief instant. I stood transfixed, listening with all my might but the drumming of the creatures my guide had called Sawolancien drowned out any further echoes. And then the drumming stopped. It seemed as though the cavern itself waited quietly and listened.

From behind me I then heard running footsteps. Into view came the horned woman. She looked at me as if to ask what had happened and then she stopped beside me and looked out into the cavern.

"What was that?" she asked and her demeanor seemed truly disturbed.

I hesitated, not knowing what to say. It felt I should not tell her that I had made the noise but as I paused, her eyes fixed upon me and I knew lying to her would fail. She had read my face and knew.

After several seconds of her stare she said, "Lucon judged you well, it seems."

She then looked out into the great cavern and I followed her gaze. The lakes glowed red with a brightness I had not perceived before and I scanned the floor of the cavern with her. At the same time, our eyes found moving shapes. On the far side of the lakes a dozen figures moved, illuminated in red. I could see that they varied greatly in size but that most of them were small and ran about swiftly. I first thought of dogs but knew better at once. These seemed more like large monkeys though I realize that also to be false. And then I took in a breath. These monkey-like creatures herded an animal forward as they crossed the cavern floor. It moved unlike any other of the group and I took in a breath as I recognized it. A giant snake. I also then realized how I now saw these creatures when before I had not. They ran. In my direction.

"Doom," gasped the woman beside me.

I looked to her in alarm.

"We must run," she said.

"What about the trap?" I asked with concern. "Did you find it?"

She looked at me, aghast at my lack of understanding and said, "We must run for our lives."


  Episode 7

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