Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Sixty-Eight

Within the palace, it waits.

Patiently, impatiently, mindlessly, it paces about the throne room, listening, smelling the intruders as they come closer.

Long ago, it would have thought only to defend the Sultan and his daughter, but those days have gone with the rest of the world. Now, its body and mind withered beyond death, it thinks only of flesh and blood.

Living flesh and warm, thick blood.

It’s been too long since its last meal, since the Man.

And the Man had opened the doors, scimitar at the ready, focused on the enemies he could see, never thinking about the one he could not. Then it leapt, and the Man was dead, ribboned flesh and spurting blood, and the palace was silent once more.

Now, beyond the doors, they breathe. Their hearts thump at a maddening tempo. Claws skitter on the polished marble floor. They speak with quiet voices, proof of delicious life.

And their smell, stronger than the desert sun, flesh and fur, is overwhelming, all-consuming. It presses and pushes against the cold, closed doors.

They will come. They always do, they always will, and then, with a pounce, they are dead.

At last there is movement. The doors swing outward, and something small and brown leaps past the doorway. It pounces, all tooth and claw, ripping and tearing and swallowing the tiny mouthful - a leather collar, awash with the scent of Dwarf sweat and kitten fur - before it can hit the ground.

To its side, shielded by the door, it hears a guttural gasp, the heavy trod of foot, and then the Dwarf charges forward, a long stick of iron in front of him, and he pushes the point into its eye, deeper and deeper.

It hisses and writhes, fangs pulled back in a grimace of anger and hunger. The weapon digs deeper into its skull, and it can no longer quite control its claws to swat at the handle.

Already, it is fading, weakening. It lies down stupidly, tugging its head backward, and the Dwarf takes that moment of hesitation to pull back the spike and swing the axe blade down upon its skull.