~ 4 ~
Nulthir quickly overtook Thing and Amal. As he passed them, he held out his hands and the pair dropped their burden. Once free of impediments, they resumed their usual method of aerial locomotion–a hopping glide that took advantage of the many extrusions of stone that Nulthir dodged.
Running all out towards a magical baddie wasn’t the smartest of plans and that eventually dawned on Nulthir. He needn’t have worried. Thing had chosen this tunnel for a reason. It soon dead-ended at a precipice with a good view of a large pool. The stench of feces and urine gagged him. It forced him to his knees, retching.
When his stomach had nothing left to regurgitate, Nulthir leaned against a stalagmite. He fumbled his hauberk up enough that he could tear a strip off tunic to cover his nose and mouth. The reek of his own unwashed garments mingled with his own funky body odor replaced the stink of the cesspit. Ripe as he was since his obsession had caused him to forget such niceties as regular baths, his own odor was tolerable at least.
Able to breath again, he crawled to the edge and peered out between rocks that looked entirely too much like a set of really large teeth for comfort. Just once he’d like a monster to spawn somewhere nice–like a pool of clean water or a forest glade dappled in afternoon light.
He studied the mis-formed creature. Only half of the warped creature currently rose above the water line and that half puzzled him. He couldn’t quite figure out what the creature was. Part rat and spider definitely but the rest, he wasn’t so certain about. Probably some human too and that was a problem. I meant this rat-headed, spider-armed horror had some kind of intelligence.
Thing landed next to Nulthir and waited. His liquid eyes didn’t watch the monster holding court below. No, he watched Nulthir. Behind Thing, Amal alighted with her family in tow. First came Thing and Amal’s child, white-mohawked Crispin, who had picked out his own name by pointing at it on a report Nulthir had been writing. Crispin’s mate, white-bellied Thistle was next. Thistle wore a white handkerchief around its neck on which a mauve thistle had been stitched. Their child Mixie dropped in next; Mixie’s pelt bore a unique mixture of spots and stripes in gold and brown tones. Mixie’s mate, bald Yarn, with its ever present ball of red yarn in hand landed next with, the baby of the extended family, Mixie and Yarn’s child Furball just behind it.
Furball looked exactly like its name suggested. He, she, it– was a puffy ball of soft black fur thirteen inches tall with stubby bat wings, a tail and a pair of doe eyes. Occassionaly Furball’s little hands poked out of the fur and their appearance proved that somewhere under all that hair, Furball had a pair of arms and legs just like its parents. Eventually Furball would grow out of the fluffy stage; Thing, Crispin and Mixie had. It would just take a few years.
Nulhir wasn’t certain about the gender of any of them given that he’d never witnessed any of the pairs reproduce. They were strangely secretive about that. The pair would disappear for awhile and then return with a ball of fluff that gradually grew into something that resembled its parents. Despite that, he’d always thought of Thing and Crispin as male and Amal as female since he knew those three the best out of all of them. Mixie, Thistle, Yarn and Furball he could not even hazard a guess about. They had come on the scene a lot later.
Names weren’t Nulthir’s forte given his general lack of imagination and confusion over the question of gender hadn’t helped. Thankfully Thing and his extended family hadn’t taken that failing personally. Maybe they didn’t understand enough human speech to recognize that they had gotten shafted in the naming department. Maybe they didn’t care what he called them so long as he called them something. He’d never been certain how much intelligence his little coterie possessed. There were times, like right now, that their cognitive abilities seemed on par with a human child’s–except for Furball.
Seven pairs of liquid eyes regarded him no doubt waiting for a brilliant plan to unfold. Their presence and the eagerness of their postures made it clear that they hadn’t come to be spectators. No, they wanted a piece of the action. It still surprised him to see them all.
He’d raised Thing and that had created a bond that had spanned nineteen years and survived two abductions, a cross-country trek and countless monster hunts. Thing was always game to extinguish monsters. Nulthir had no idea why the others had stuck around. Maybe they too enjoyed eliminating the vile things fouled magic produced. Whatever the reason, he was glad of their company.
MORE OF NULTHIR
Read the intro.