Monday, November 18, 2013


Daryl laughed.  It was something he hadn't done before.  He had gasped, he had screamed, and - most often - had made no sound at all. But he had never laughed while dying.  The absurdity of it made him laugh even harder, but he died all the same. A thousand times he had been to this place.  A thousand times he had never left.

Again he stood at the gate, looking in.  The moon was overhead, but its light was subdued by a wafting black mist which enveloped the courtyard.  Daryl couldn't see past the stone fountain that stood, crumbling and waterless, a few feet in front of him.  No matter - he knew what lay beyond.

He could leave.  He should leave.  Just run away and never return.  But where would he go?  Where there was no danger, there was no life, and this pitiful, ravished world no longer held any dangers for him.  Save one.

He dropped his sword and reached for the slim silver dagger in his belt.  He had learned long ago that the sword was too cumbersome a weapon for this battle.  The creature was agile - unbelievably so, and speed was more valuable than power when tangling with it.

The eyes, He thought, if I can just take its eyes.  It was a guess.  Daryl didn't know whether the monster's eyes were vulnerable, but it was something he had never managed.  Besides, the thing had to have some weakness.  Nothing was immortal.

Stealing past the fountain, Daryl approached the ring of rotting corpses and decaying bones surrounding the inner court.  How many hundreds - how many thousands - had perished between the teeth of this beast.  Gods help him, how many of these corpses were his own?  He pointedly directed his gaze away from the carnage and toward the center of the ring where the demon would be waiting.  It wasn't there.

Daryl heard movement but was too slow to react.  The creature's talons sunk into his back and thrust him across the courtyard.  It was waiting for me. He thought dimly as he crashed into a pile of death.  How did it... Everything went black.

But then, his surroundings began to take dim shape from out of the darkness. He was still alive.  Daryl twisted his head slightly and could see the shape of his attacker approaching leisurely.  It thinks I'm dead! He thought. The thrill of his predicament quelled any worry about the bleeding wounds in his back.  He still held the dagger in his right hand and he clenched it tightly as the beast neared.

It was walking on four of its six legs, with the front two lifted slightly off the ground.  The talons of these were dripping with, he assumed, Daryl's own blood.  It was a beautiful creature.  Its silvery black skin seemed to luminesce in the foggy moonlight.  It bent its massive head to survey its kill, and Daryl thrust.

The scream was sickening.  Daryl's silver dagger sunk easily into the creature's left eye. Black blood poured from the wound as Daryl retracted with his knife.  He quickly stood and, dodging thrashing legs, backed away.  The beast was wounded, but not dead.  Daryl considered a strike at the remaining eye, but it was no use.  The razor-sharp talons attached to the creature's frenetic legs were too unpredictable.  One misstep and it would be over.  He would have to throw the dagger.  It was a small and moving target, but Daryl was well practiced.  One true throw.  That's all he needed.  He took careful aim.

"DARYL!"  A woman's voice made him jump.  He looked instinctively toward the source of the shout, and in that moment the angry beast was on top of him, tearing out his throat.

Again the voice.  "Turn off that game and come down for dinner!"

Daryl cried.