Owl threw malleus spells repeatedly against the exoskeleton wall: a Standerbuild was filling the round tunnel like the backside of an hourglass spider. This tunnel branched from the regular squared stonework passages like the den of a wagon-sized stone-eating rat; and by now it was the most likely option of their scanty and unlikely choice of ways.
Peri held his book behind him, and tried to find things she could do or help him with among the unfamiliar sections and markings. He had never expected to have someone else shuffling through those pages, trying to decipher his scrawled and jarred notes, his more precise mystic text, and his heiroglyphic or childish drawings. Some of the pages were spotted with blood, some with sweat, some with… tears. No doubt her own book had been the same before it had been stolen. With one book between them they had tried various arrangements, none of which seemed to work.
It was difficult to repeat the malleus spells over and over: as it became more like meaningless sound to one’s mind, it became less of a spell. And he had to cast it at two parts of the creature in as quick succession as he could, or else it would simply turn, absorbing the pounding blow, and advance on them. The barricading hulk’s thin jaws were manifold as the arms of a typewriter, and twitched angrily. Peri’s page flipping was becoming frantic, and Owl winced when he heard one tear. She timidly said sorry, and he couldn’t answer as he continued his barrage.
Peri began a spell she had found, but faltered at an awkward part. He glanced into the book, and, as he recognised the spell (also as it required a pinch of self-heal he had in his belt), he was able to cast it successfully. A bitter and numbing odor came to him as under this enchantment the Standerbuild shuddered to stillness.
He turned to help Peri find something to clear it from their path, only to find that she was being hastened back and around a corner by a creature with a black insectile leg belted around her waist. As she stumbled backwards in the enemy’s grasp she was again searching Owl’s book, desperate to find some way to free herself. If she threw the book to him, he could save her by several means – yet he hesitated to speak, for the pained thought that it would seem he only wanted to save his book and not her.
Darting around the corner, he was in time to see her drop his book and wrestle with another thin leg which was… not a leg, but a jointed jaw and curving sting, which it ran through her.
Owl’s throat seized and his eyes went slack at the sight. He felt heavy rolling coils inside, as if of a snake that struck upward and stung him between the lungs.
Peri, still clutching the black limb, five inches of whose point was buried in her body, spoke in a horribly sinking voice:
“Matha, ktanai, silthei Peri anadan, saterei…”
Forked violet sparks stitched both her and the black-limbed shape that held her, lighting up the horrible tableau of predator and prey – these flares bled a dull orange, and flew apart into honeycombs of fumy lace. The murdering fiend shook on its stinger like a dry weightless leaf on its autumn stem, then it skidded away and rolled over, a stiff and destroyed carcass.
Peri crumpled to the stone floor, pierced, poisoned, and burnt, still clutching the sting that was left in her. Owl snatched his book and knelt beside her. He hoped he had strayed near the veil often enough to lead another poor soul away from it; yet he was no well-master, and here there was no well.
But while there’s life there’s running till your feet leave a trail of blood.
2023/04/25 #DailyCreatedOOM #WrittenOOM #OwlOfTheMaze