Chapter 14: The Eater of Reflections.
Zalark and Aira stared at each other, the spirit bird and the golem. Aira broke the silence.
“So how did you end up in that town anyway?” she inquired.
“Led a bunch of people to their doom, in other words, the shadow lord killed the people I led”
Oppressive awkward silence descended once more.
Elsewhere, inside the mirror tree forest, Phule and Bab-Lin were making good progress in stalking their prey.
The trees’ mirror leaves glinted in the deep darkness, but around a number of them was strands of glowing green webbing. Bab-Lin hoped that it wasn’t from something really nasty. Phule tried to touch some, but her hand went right through it.
Bab-Lin clutched the short black blade with a brown hide grip he had produced from his fuzzy shoulder bag before he left the camp.
Phule and Bab-Lin were both silent for fear of warning their prey or drawing the attention of something they didn’t want to deal with, there was the chance of course that their prey was in fact something they wouldn’t want to deal with.
There was however a problem. Phule had lost the scent.
“What do you mean you can’t smell it anymore?” Bab-Lin whispered.
“Phule meanings that smellings gone, bonehead, you probly scarings it off with smokes”
There wasn’t quite enough smoke to be so easily noticed, but Bab-Lin didn’t feel like arguing.
“Well, lets look for some physical signs of the prey” Bab-Lin suggested.
Phule nodded and they began to sweep the area.
Bab-Lin went clock-wise and Phule anti-clockwise.
Phule was a bit disturbed, it wasn’t just how abruptly the scent had vanished, but the earlier events she had been through. She tried not to think about the tainted shadow lord. She had kind of just gotten caught up the current of Aira and Bab-Lin’s quest. She was also a little bit excited. What had happened had been far more interesting than wandering half-starved through the wilds of Fasil-Yad and ending up trapped in that horrible shadow town.
Phule had decided to follow them, Bab-Lin had promised to tell her about a hex witch, and her chances of survival were much better with these two. Her mother always told her that an adventure was a good thing if you could survive it. Though she did not like to admit it, Bab-Lin seemed quite seasoned in travelling. She wouldn’t so easily trust someone who had been punished with enchantment though.
Phule saw the strands of glowing green webbing here and there, but could not make a trail from it, she wasn’t sure that the silk was even from their prey. She didn’t even know what it was from, and if Bab-Lin did, he wasn’t saying.
She looked over in one direction, but she could find no sign of any living being.
“Wrong way dear, look over that way”
Phule changed the direction she was looking. She saw it, a yaw-tiab. She hadn’t recognised it from the webbing because she only knew of yaw-tiab from a children’s tale.
A yaw-tiab is a horse-sized beast with body like a spider and six tentacles. Its head bears a pair of trunks, with no eyes or a mouth. It is covered from tentacle to abdomen in coarse black hairs.
They consume the reflections of beings in Kigan. The method in which they do this is by the ethereal glowing green silk they produce from their spinnerets. Using this silk they send strands through mirriors to seek reflections, then on finding one, they ensnare the reflection and drag it into awarth where they slurp it up with their trunks.
Clearly a dangerous being, as while there can be benefits to being without a reflection, it is also dangerous, after all, both reflections and shadows exist to protect a body.
yaw-tiab however have a fatal weakness. Its webbing cannot touch any being in Awarth. To denizens of Awarth, the yaw-tiab is mostly harmless, as while they are quite big and have strong tentacles, yaw-tiab are unused to fighting physically and will in most cases flee while shrieking from their trunks.
Not that they can flee terribly fast, but often people stumble upon them more than actually searching for them. A terrified yaw-tiab is quite surprising.
Being natural cowards, yaw-tiab are brilliant at hiding and concealing their presence.
As Phule looked about to call Bab-Lin over, she was struck by two things, the first was that the yaw-tiab was not the creature she had smelt earlier.
The second was that it was not Bab-Lin who had directed her to look at where the yaw-tiab actually was.
As soon as she came to that realization everything seemed to slow, and Phule felt something pass in front of her.
She felt like it was a fish.
It was a strange fish. Phule could not see the end of its tail, she could not gaze into its eyes, she could not have said what colour its scales were, or what shape. All she could say was that it was a beautiful smiling fish.
Phule had seen the fish, if that was what he really was a number of times. The first time had been when she was just a little goblin. Few believed that she saw the fish, but those that did, called him the fish of all knowledge. The Allking.
When she was a child, she had simply delighted in the smile of the Allking, unknowing of the nature of the being before her. She had called him smiler then. Now she called the AllKing God.
Many believed that the fish was a deceiver, a false god, The various aryaithian faiths all believed this, and the worshippers of spirits and other powerful beings scorn the followers of the AllKing for claiming he is the only true god. Others did not believe the AllKing was even real, but a delusion brought on by the flows of magic. Interestingly most of the followers of the AllKing were travellers, outcasts and wanderers, because of this, he is sometimes mockingly, or reverently referred to as ‘The God of the Lost’.
Phule trusted him, she bowed before her god.
The Allking spoke.
“Don’t let her fall asleep, but if she does, wake her”
Phule was excited and nervous, that she should be part of some working the Allking was doing. Clearly the Allking spoke of Aira, though golems do not sleep. She was curious as to what the Allking was doing, but she was content to let the answer come to her in time, if it ever did, after all, knowledge belonged to him.
Phule spoke, head bowed.
“Thank you my Allking, Phule will do bestings”
“Be at ease, hold my tail”
Phule gripped what she could not see, and instantly, her fear of the tainted shadow bled away, her worries swam away.
She saw Bab-Lin, moving in slow motion as if through heavy water, still searching.
“Will you not forgive him?” The Allking asked.
“What did he do?” Phule blurted, losing her grip on the tail.
She felt the Allking swim around her.
“I know. Will you forgive him?”
Phule knew then that her mistrust of Bab-Lin had not just been mistrust. Bab-Lin had already received punishment for whatever his crime had been, the spell in burning in his throat was proof of that. Who was she, to add more punishment to that?
She trusted the Allking’s knowledge.
“I will, sorry, my Allking”
Phule felt his smile wash over her once more and then he slipped away.
Phule let out a deep breath and then, smiling, signalled him over.
Bab-Lin sneaked his way over to Phule. She seemed oddly cheerful to him.
“What is it? You find something?” He whispered.
“Yes, Bab-Lin” Phule pointed at the yaw-tiab, which was twined around one of the mirror trees, trunks checking a number of strands of webbing.
Bab-Lin turned his head to look at the yaw-tiab, but he did a double take.
He stared at Phule with his hollow eyesockets, smoke rolling out.
“What? Somethings on Phule’s face?”
Bab-Lin considered questioning why she had used his name, but he decided he didn’t want to lose any more of his cool demeanour. He had lost quite a bit as it was.
“Nothing, thanks, let’s attack it from two sides, I’ll drive it, you take it down, ok?”
They split apart, with bab-lin muttering “what in Relhs is that beast supposed to be anyway” and closed in on the reflection eating beast.
A bit away from the beast, Bab-Lin went into his odd crouching slouch and leapt out at it.
Bab-Lin was not prepare for a shocked yaw-tiab. It fell off the tree, tentacles flailing and shrieking from its swinging trunks. To Bab-Lin’s credit, he didn’t let it run off to the sides, but he didn’t manage to chase it much before it escaped him.
In escaping Bab-Lin however, it ran right into Phule, who sprang up snarling. It tried to move back, but it was too close and Phule brought her fists down together on the head of it with a mighty crack.
The yaw-tiab fell dazed, and in short order, Bab-Lin caught up, sinking his blade into the creature’s life, ending its life.
All at once, there was the sound of mirrors cracking, and the reflections that the yaw-tiab had last eaten, but not yet digested flew from its trunks, swirling about like ghosts, before vanishing into the leaves of the mirror trees.
Phule and Bab-Lin both sighed.
“Thank you, my Allking” Phule praised.
“The Allking, what is he like?” Bab-Lin questioned, a bit surprised.
Phule looked at the body of the yaw-tiab for a while.
“He never betrays.” She said.
Bab-Lin was not inclined to believe her, but it hadn’t been the answer he had expected. He did like the idea of someone that would never betray.
He idly lifted a tentacle. “So, you know how to cook this thing?”
Phule shook her head.
“Great, well, we should probably get this back to camp, anyway, don’t want to attract something nasty”
So, Phule and Bab-Lin lifted the yaw-tiab’s body and returned to were Aira and Zalark were waiting.