(Book I of the Oerth Cycle)
(C) 1999 BY
Click here to go to the most recent post!
Netscape users - click here to hear the music for this page.
"No! No! NONONONONO!" Tinker raged.
T'Vril snarled when she saw what Tinker was pointing at. After three days of hiking through the forests that covered this island, they had run across an enormous basket, carefully shielded from the weather by a lean-to made of silk. The huge pieces of silk scraps still caught in the trees showed it was what remained of an airship.
"My airship! With a lighter gondola, and missing the steam engine and propellers, but it has to be! Look - they have mounting holes here for the axle cowlings! They must have ditched the engine when it ran out of water so they could float farther on less fuel. And look! They've cut the balloon up, bundled it, and stored it here in the gondola! ARGH! This is MY AIRSHIP!" Tinker shouted.
"Mrowr! Who could have flown it here, Master?"
"Xaa! It has to be him!" Tinker fumed.
"Miaow... Master, I beg to differ. Xaa is a warrior - he knows little of this. Of battles and war and killing, yes. Of flying your machine? No."
"Who else could possibly do it, then?"
"Mrr... The little mustie-girl, Master. She is smarter than you give her credit for," T'Vril said, then knelt on the ground and examined it closely. "Mrr... Yes, master. Here are their tracks. See? The tracks of a small person, like yourself, but not a mouse or a mus-child. And here - the tracks of the war-boots of the mus. Yes, Master. It is the girl, Merle, and The Slayer, Xaa - it has to be. They have divined your plan, and mean to stop you. For all we know, they may have already."
"Alright, what do we do?" Tinker asked.
"Mrowl... I suggest we follow their tracks, Master - but carefully. Perhaps Xaa can lead us to what it is we seek. If he does, we can plan what to do from there."
"Sounds as good a plan as any. Well, you're the expert at tracking, not me. Lead on, T'Vril," Tinker replied.
"Purr... Yes, Master," T'Vril replied, smiling.
"You know, I think your ancestors could have at least given better directions. A landmark would be nice," Merle said, sticking her tongue out as she walked behind Xaa.
"Well, I don't imagine they intended people to be going there. I mean, they did end up naming this island "Forbidden Island" when they left, after all. Besides - the whole legend has the ring of one of those "Everybody Knows" stories. At the time the legend was first being told, everyone knew what they were being told about. No additional explanation necessary," Xaa replied, his eyes searching about as they walked through the forest to the next hilltop. They hadn't seen any dangerous animals, but Xaa had his gun loaded and ready in case they encountered one. "Ah - look. Another cave," Xaa said, pointing.
"Great - the last three were full of snakes and spiders and beetles. I think your ancestors should have at least mentioned that there was more than one cave on their island. The first one had me hopping with joy when I saw it. Now I just get icky-shivers about them."
"Now, now, Merle. This island is our home, now. Let's try to look on the bright side - at least the snakes were tasty," Xaa chuckled.
"That's true," Merle replied, giggling.
"Come on - let's drop our packs by the entrance and take a look into this cave. I want you to ride on my back when we go inside, though - some of those snakes had fangs. Poisonous, most likely. My boots will stop then from biting me, but I don't want you to get bitten," Xaa cautioned, and Merle nodded.
"Miaow! Master, look! I got another one!" T'Vril yowled proudly.
Tinker looked at the twisting, coiling, hissing thing that dangled from T'Vril's paw - another snake. "That's nice," Tinker replied with a shudder. Tinker hated snakes. Poisonous snakes could kill a mouse with a single bite, and even the non-poisonous ones were icky. Tinker held out his knife to T'Vril, and she sliced off the shake's head deftly, then passed it back. At times, Tinker regretted giving T'Vril a few minutes to find a forked tree-branch to make what she called a 'snake-stick' - T'Vril apparently loved hunting (and eating) snakes, and wasn't afraid of them at all. To her, each snake-ridden cave was a visit to an enormous larder of food, with the added benefits of being fun to catch and the thrill of the small risk that one of them might bite her nimble, leaping legs and kill her. To Tinker, however, it was just the gory spectacle of another carnivore feasting. 'Oh, well - at least there's plenty of tasty beetles and grubs under nearly every rock and log I turn over,' he thought to himself.
T'Vril sat on a large rock nearby, so Tinker took it that this meant she was going to take a break again. Tinker sat down on a fallen log, and glanced over at T'Vril's nude form from time to time while he waited. It was a strange juxtaposition - a beautiful, sensual being whose body he enjoyed greatly, slitting the belly of a snake with her claws to disgorge it's bloody entrails (which she simply tossed over her shoulder), then gobbling down the meat with relish. Part of him was excited by her, and part of him was disgusted by her. Tinker sighed quietly. Merle had always been careful to conceal her diet from him, to protect his sensibilities. Tinker found he missed Merle deeply.
T'Vril finished the snake with a quiet burp, tossing the spine and what ribs remained attached aside with a casual flick of her wrist. After carefully lapping her paws clean of the blood and gore, she then slowly slid down to the ground, her buttocks thumping onto the grass. The jar apparently started up whatever magical organ she had that made her purring sounds, as she immediately began to purr loudly. Tinker looked over to her, and saw her lie back against the rock, arcing her back over it as she yawned and streeeeetched. Tinker grinned. T'Vril looked immensely erotic to him when she did that - it was one of the little quirks about her that he always found exciting. "We're camping here?" Tinker asked.
"Purr... No, Master. I'm just resting. Judging by the tracks, I'd say we are only four hours behind them or so. That means we could easily stumble across them at any time. Xaa will almost certainly try to kill me the instant he sees me, so I have to be at my peak - I can't be tired or inattentive and let us accidentally overtake them. We can't let them know we are even on the island at all. So far, their ignorance is our only advantage."
Tinker nodded, sitting on the grass himself and resting his back against the log. His little legs were tired from the walking, and he decided a rest would be good for him, too. "Have you thought about what we're going to do when they find it? I mean, what if all they intend to do is just sit there and wait for us?"
"Mrr... Master, that is almost certainly what they intend to do. Xaa is a mus, and more familiar with their legends than we are. He is more likely to find it than we will be, and so it's logical to let him do all the work for us, and we simply follow along behind them. When they do find it, we'll plan what to do from there. But yes, I do have a general idea for what we can do. For the moment, however, we'll just have to wait and see."
Tinker nodded, then leaned back against the log and gazed into the blue sky above the trees. He saw a fluffy cloud which reminded him of a mustie's head, and sighed. Tinker wondered if Merle was looking up at the clouds right now, and if she was, what she would think that cloud looked like. Again, he recalled the times when he would lie on his back in the grass with Merle, just gazing up at the clouds and guessing at the shapes they sometimes formed. There were times he was so angry at her for choosing Xaa over him that he hated her. Then, there were moments like this when he missed her happy smile, her giggling voice, and her endless imagination at finding the fantastic shapes hidden in the billowing clouds that would float quietly by in the blue, blue sky above the Wild Wood.
Tinker sighed. "T'Vril, maybe we should just let it go. They aren't going to do anything with it, just guard it from us. We could walk to the other end of this island - it's very big. We could live there quietly the rest of our days. They can find our boat, and maybe leave with it. We can stay here. I... I find I care for you, T'Vril. I really do. It's not just that I enjoy your body... I found out the day I gave you the swimming lesson that I really care for you. I think I could learn to love you. I think we could be happy here, far away from everything else, far away from all the trouble and strife..." Tinker said, still gazing at the clouds.
T'Vril was silent for a long while before she answered, gazing at Tinker. He wasn't looking at her, but instead still gazed at the clouds above. For a moment, T'Vril almost said 'yes'. How often was it that a legendary, mythical being, a tiny, magical being who mastered the winds and the waters and knew the secrets of the universe, said "Come away with me, and live with me on a beautiful island for the rest of our lives..."? Yes, Tinker was weak, at times, but at other times, he could be so...
Finally, she shook her head, tossing aside the thought with a flick of her tail. It was tempting, but far greater rewards awaited her, should they succeed. The mus destroyed, if there was any truth to the legend. Perhaps even The Slayer himself a mere memory. Limitless power, perhaps. T'Vril, Shazadi of all the Cat Clans - and perhaps even more. Yes, if the legends were true, the whole universe might be just within the reach of her claw... And looking at Tinker, a living legend, T'Vril knew that it just might be true, after all.
"Mrr... No, Master. We must try. We may fail, but we must try. If the legends are true, Xaa's people are an abomination, some kind of mutation of your noble people. They must be destroyed. And I am not your proper mate, Master. The little mustie-girl is. I am merely your property, my Master. We must eliminate Xaa and his people, and restore the little mustie-girl to you. Be strong, Master. Please," T'Vril purred.
Tinker sighed again, his gaze still on the clouds. The one that reminded him of Merle had fuzzed out, shifting and rolling into a shapeless, fluffy mass the drifted in the sky. "Yes, T'Vril."
"That's something different," Merle said, gazing in wonder.
"Indeed. I think we may have found it," Xaa replied.
The small cave before them in the thickly wooded hillside didn't look like much in the shadowy gloom beneath the trees. The entrance was perhaps twice Xaa's height, and fairly dripping with vines and creepers - it looked as gloomy and snake-ridden as any of the others had been. There was one important difference, however - flanking each side of the entrance, nearly obscured beneath ages of vines, creepers and other growth, were two enormous statues.
"What do you think those statues are?" Merle asked.
"I've no idea - we'd have to clear away all the vines to see all of them. They look a little like a mus," Xaa replied, looking over the statues carefully as he shed his pack.
Merle dropped her pack beside Xaa's, then waited for him to kneel so she could climb on his back again. A strange bird called in the distance, it's ek-ek-ek sound a bit unnerving to Merle as Xaa stood up. Xaa checked the pan of his gun for a moment, then stepped into the yawning maw of the cave.
Inside the cave, Merle marveled. The walls and ceiling bore many long, elaborate runes painted into the walls, and a single, solitary outline of a paw. The maker's mark was silent in it's anonymity, but it was obviously the paw of a mus, made by spraying a mouthful of dye against a paw held to the wall, the fingers splayed and wide. "Can you read the writing?" Merle asked.
"Barely. It's very ancient. Hmm..." Xaa rumbled, then struggled to read. "Beware... Ye what readeth mine words... For these words yet be..." Xaa read, then paused. "Hrm. That last one is a compound." Xaa rumbled, studying the words carefully. After several minutes, he began to read again, translating what he read carefully.
"Beware you who read my words, for they are words-of-warning. I am She-Who-Guards. An age ago, one of our people came to this cave. He spoke to the Last God. He asked the Last God to make him large and strong, that he might find a mate. The Last God claimed to be powerless, and to need several tasks to be done. The Last God ordered him to do many strange things. When they were done, his wish was granted. He was known thereafter as He-Who-Eats-Meat. As his seed was spread throughout our people throughout the generations, we grew large and strong, like he - but ever after ate only meat. As our people grew, the Last God grew in power, and insanity. Many generations later, the Last God had become completely insane. Chaos reigned. Reality-Storms raged on our island, and all life was in danger. We made a final wish, for large ships to leave our homeland, then He-Who-Strides un-did all the tasks that He-Who-Eats-Meat had done, and the Last God was sane and calm again. We named this place the Forbidden Cave, and our lands the Forbidden Island. Never again would we return here, so that the Last God would rest in peace. I was left behind to guard the Forbidden Cave. For many years, the Last God tempted me, entreating me to restore him his powers in exchange for anything my heart would desire, even immortality. I resisted him. He is insane, and the traditions of our people say that the insane do not truly understand what they say or do. After ten years, he stopped speaking to me entirely, and simply rested quietly. Now, many years later, I am old. I know I shall not live much longer. Heed my words, you of the future. Leave this place, and do not return. Do not seek the power of the Last God, for it comes with a terrible price. I am She-Who-Guards, and here is my mark," Xaa finished, and pointed to the outline of the paw.
"Oh, how sad! To grow old here, all alone?" Merle said.
"She made a great sacrifice. I'm guessing, but I think that much of this was concealed from the children and grandchildren of the next few generations, so we would only know that this was a forbidden place, and think the Last God was the one that forbid us from it. That way, none would think they might come here to make their dreams come true, and risk releasing the consequences that she spoke of in this warning," Xaa said, then knelt to let Merle down. Once she was on the ground, he turned and hugged her gently, grinning. "Well, congratulations again, Merle. You were the first mustie to fly, you were the first mustie to land on Forbidden Island, and now you are the first mustie to set foot in the Forbidden Cave," Xaa rumbled.
"Indeed she is," came a voice from the darkness of the cave deeper in, silencing Merle's giggle instantly.
"They've been in that one a long time. Do you think that's it?" Tinker whispered.
"Mrr... Yes, Master. Look at the statues - none of the others had statues. In fact, we've seen no buildings or carvings of any kind on this island before he found these statues. This must be the place," T'Vril whispered back.
"So what do we do?" Tinker asked.
"Purr... Follow me, Master - but
be very, very quiet," T'Vril replied, and began to
stealthily creep to the entrance of the cave.
to read the next chapter!
At least one new chapter will be posted every week - check back regularly.