A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, March 18, 2005

Artemus, Two Moons Over Ninevah, part i

[The beginning] [The previous bit]

The dogs were baying in the distance, getting closer. He could smell them.

Running, running. Fast. A blur amongst the trees on the outer edge of Ninevah Island. Slap away the branches, snarling in anger and fear, as the baying continues and the trees seem to grab at his fur.

Ahead, there was water running. Tinkle, burble. The stream contrasting with the haunting howls of the pursuers.

His instincts told him to turn, to fight. He was a killing machine, with long, lethal claws. The dogs would be no match for his strength, his speed. He would dine on dog entrails and sate the hunger gnawing at his belly. He would breathe in the rich aroma of fresh blood.

But part of him, a small, rational part, knew better. Knew that it wasn’t just dogs pursuing him, but minotaurs with their huge axes and elves with their deadly bows. Dogs he could handle— the others would be death.

So, he ran. And that small, non-instinctual part of him told him to run in the middle of the stream for a while. Follow it downstream, at a right angle, when all he wanted to do was turn and fight. Or to run far and fast. Away from the hounds.

He listened to that small part because it kept him alive. Kept him one step ahead of his pursuers, and with a belly mostly full— or at least full enough to temper his nearly insatiable appetite. That small voice was smart, cunning. Smarter than the dogs, smarter than the elves, so he heeded it.

Most of the time.

He left the water now, back the way he had come, but at an angle south of the pursuing line of dogs. A dangerous maneuver, but also an unexpected one. He passed within a few hundred yards of his pursuers at one point, but he was downwind of them. They were too intent on the trail of his scent to imagine he could be doubling back upon them. He could smell the minotaurs, and the elves, and even a few lizardmen as he passed them. Left them behind.

He snarled deep in his throat, and imagined his fangs tearing at the throats of his pursuers. Drinking their blood and filling his body with their energy. He wanted to howl and charge them. Rip their limbs from their bodies. Prove his strength and feed his hunger.

But the voice whispered, ‘No, no. Too dangerous— you will die even as you kill. They are too many. We must run.’

And he heeded, for the voice had kept him alive. Had kept his screaming hunger at bay. He heeded even though all of the sinews of his body seemed to demand flesh and blood as he loped through the woods and swamps of Ninevah’s wildlands.

He did not howl at the twin moons looking down through the trees.

But he wanted to.

[The next bit]


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