~ 6 ~
Big Ugly had raised two of its eight arms and had began a gurgling address to its assembled followers. A lot of gesturing culminated in a release of rats that the beast’s followers herded into the cesspit. Obviously this was meant to provide the cesspit with more living material to warp. After the rats, bags were upended spilling countless spiders onto the rock apron around the cesspit. However, the spiders had more sense than the rats. Most of them crawled onto the idiots trying to herd them and escaped.
Quite a few of the herders lost their cool and beat at their clothes to get their eight-legged riders off them. At least Nulthir had found some of the women and children. Though he couldn’t fathom why they were here with this beast and not at that strange demonstration. Why were they playing with monsters?
Whatever plan he came up with had to take their presence into account. He doubted they were going to react well to the destruction of their–leader? Savior? What was this horror to them? Did they actually believe that breeding monsters could lead to their liberation? How exactly had they pulled this horror show off?
Nulthir shook his head. That conundrum was well above his pay grade and better left to the Lord Martial to sort out. Now for that diversion before the magical field in here grew any more concentrated. He didn’t want to sprout any additional appendages and that was a major possibility given how warped the magic was down here.
Thing had to be a mind reader because the instant Nulthir turned his thoughts back to the problem at hand, Thing produced a stick of chalk. Nulthir took the chalk with a nod of gratitude and set to work.
Magic was a book that he could read in its own language. What were spells but equations that defined and shaped magic’s potential to suit some purpose? That’s what it was for Nulthir anyway. Every monster hunt only increased his runic vocabulary.
He reached for stones that Thing and his family could easily carry and searched his memory for the right sigils. Then he set to sketching them on the stones’ faces. He kept at it until he’d built up a pile of projectiles. On each one, the runes ignited the instant he finished drawing them.
Thing had caught on to the plan immediately; he gave Nulthir a toothy grin and rubbed his little hands together in anticipation. The rest of Thing’s family kept an eye on the doings down below and on Furball, whose curiosity threatened to send it arse-over-fluffy head off the precipice. But they had brought Furball and so it was up to them to keep the little thing out of harm’s way. Why they had decided to bring the baby along, he couldn’t fathom. Then again, all he knew about children was that he definitely didn’t want any, ever.
“Wait until I give the signal,” Nulthir warned Thing after he set the last stone down.
Thing nodded and his liquid eyes took on an eager light.
Since chalk and water didn’t mix well, Nulthir had to leave the chalk behind as he made his way down to ground level. Chalk wasn’t expensive but providing for Thing’s ever expanding family plus the exorbitant amount he paid for a one bedroom flat with a window taxed his salary; so every bit saved was a help.
Everyone’s attention still fixed on Big Ugly. Not taking any chances, Nulthir descended close to the point where the precipice met the back wall of the cave, not far from the channel that dumped more sludge into the lake. He tried not to breathe much but the exertion forced him to take lungfuls of air that got fouler the lower he went.
At the bottom, he had to pause, double over and will himself not to throw up. His view hadn’t improved either. He now had a close view of the muck floating on the surface but not nothing of the engine that spawned the monster. That curiosity was still submerged and hidden from view.
Nerving himself up to take the plunge, he cast a quick glance to ensure that he hadn’t been noticed. He hadn’t. The onlookers struggled to feed something to the lake and that something wanted no part of any of this. He couldn’t see what they were wrestling closer to the waterline. It could have been anything. He just hoped it wasn’t a child.
While all attention fixed on the struggle, he slid down into the muck. He kept his eyes shut tight and that other sense, the one that saw and understood all things magical, tightly focused on the spot that repelled him the most–a circle of pulsing things. Swimming blind, he stroked hard towards the bottom and jerked his hand back after it collided with a leathery bag.
He extended a hand more cautiously and ran it over a cocoon of some kind. Strands of magic wrapped around the cocoon striping it with brownish light. Thousands upon thousands of lines of runes–some he had never seen before–encircled the the cocoon in tight bands. He could read them just by touching them. By some mysterious process, the sense of the individual rune imprinted itself on his memory.
Lungs practically bursting, he fought against the current and breached the surface long enough to draw in a fetid breath. Then he dove under again. The cloth covering his nose and mouth helped to keep the muck away from those all important orifices. Though he was long past noticing the slime he swam through. Below him lay a mystery unlike anything he seen in his twenty-seven years. It intrigued him even as it repelled him.
A mad desire seized him to learn all he could before destroying this nightmare. He could do it too; all he had to do was run his fingers over the lines of runes and let that part of his mind that translated all things magical into mundane equivalents do the work.
MORE OF NULTHIR
Read the intro.