Thursday, 19 September 2013

PART 6: Sad Sam and Sly Strange - A Serial by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

“Make haste,” Severina cried. ”For now we must ride! Secure you saddles, don’t dilly daddle. Strap all your packs to the backs of the dragons, slake all you thirsts; then refill your flagons at the well in the dell, where the good rain fell. Time is of the essence, we need no unwanted presence of spies and trolls on early patrols.”

So everyone did what Severina intended, all the while fearful of being apprehended by some repugnant atrocity, lacking in empathy.

When they’d finished their tasks, they climbed on the backs of the impatient beasts, who were whining and snorting and stamping their feet.

“Hold tight to the bridles,” warned Severina. “As it will be vital, passing by the Gorgon Straits, that you don’t meet your fate from a fall from a dragon. Alive or dead in the labyrinth of canyons, you will be abandoned; carrion feast for carnivorous beasts. But now it’s time to race. Picote, set the pace!”

Barbon wore a hat with a lamp at the end. He wept and rejoiced and saluted his friends. With his customary jiggle, he let out a might roar, then got down on all fours, got on his marks; and with incredible agility, ran through the dark.

The dragons breathed out, and although no flames escaped their snouts, their puffs were still smoky as they followed the picote.

Through the dark of the day to the dark of the night, they moved speedily with little respite. Until Barbon sniffed out a place for a temporary basis; a tropical wonder, a beautiful oasis.

“Oh, wonderful picote,” cried Sam. “To such beauty you have brought us,” as he gazed at the palm trees and crystal clear waters.

“Be careful, young buck. I fear dark forces are at work,” said Esprelotta with trepidation. “This paradise could just be our imagination.”

Sly coughed and spluttered before he uttered, “Daughter of Slaughter do explain, for don’t you see the pain and the fright on the face of my young acolyte?”

“Oh, strange Sly, I feel this is a lie. It must be a lark. How can there be light in the dark? We must all beware, for we could all be in some demon’s lair and this be the bait for us to ensnare. Sorry, young Sam, I never meant to scare.”

“To Esprelotta I be fair, I have heard of such lairs,” said Severina. “If a foul wind does blow, then we will know.”

“I say we depart before a foul wind starts,” said Esprelotta.

Just as she spoke, the ground beneath them broke and in darkness they were cloaked. The ground became a void and they all began to spin from the terrifying force of a sulphurous wind.

Oh the wind that arose, up it drove and clove the night with the fearful bright flash of razor wings from strange things that screamed and dove towards their heads. The trembled and strove to protect their ears and eyes and sought for cover but over all that fearful spot that mercy itself forgot was not a sign of protection, nor mention of a single dot that could offer them respite from the razor wings or the rabid spite of the flying things.

They cowered beneath the onslaught and all their striving would have been for naught had the sly picote not thought and fought with all his might. He reached for his knife, and with a muttered prayer and “please sweet Lady bare thy hand and bear no ill” drove the point into the skin of Esprelotta’s palm. The darkling blood welled up, and did no harm, but the picote then raised his bloodied blade and chanted charms and cants of might, and at that sight; or perhaps some strange power that may flower from ogre blood, the fearsome creatures of the dark did hurriedly depart.

Slow to her feet did Severina rise, and thought it wise in grace to smile on the picote and the Lady, fountain of their salvation.

“Thank thee, picote, thou wert most wise; and to thee Esprelotta, daughter of Slaughter I thank you likewise. Now let us not abide for a single night in this treacherous place. Rather honest Devil’s Mudd Town with it’s hideous face; for here does deadly malice bear the fashion of grace. Let us away, lest the break of day find us still far away from the Gorgon’s Gorge; for should the deadly sun arise and catch us in the desert sands, no clever thinking or bleeding of hands shall save us. The deadly rays permit no strays, none survive under these pitiless skies.”

But as yet they rose to depart, a wrenching cry tore at the hardest heart.

“Fair my friends, forbear! Leave me not here!”

The motley crew did turn around and did see staked out upon the ground a figure of despair. It was a maid from the length of the hair, and the sweet sound of the flute like voice; though her figure was not choice; and her features far from fair. Indeed a caul of hardened scaly meat did seem to hide her flesh from her neck to her feet. Her face was bare: her eyes an odd and vivid scarlet flame to match her lips; the face cadaverous with no feature to commend the supplicant to comeliness. “Oh leave me not here, I beg you! Take me with you, I have arts; and such wiles as I can spare, what ever your destination, I swear to help you there!”

by Grant Harbison and Manuela Cardiga

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