Tag Archives: monsters

Castle of Crows – Part 15

I stayed hidden until all traces of the goblin’s light disappeared. The darkness felt even thicker than before, and even when I’d slipped out of my hiding place I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face.

Walking through that darkness was possibly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever had to do. My only source of guidance was the Fortuna, and the hot and cold directions it gave me. Some directions just felt right, while others didn’t. Worst of all were the directions that left me with a feeling of intense dread. Those directions usually led to cells, or I assumed they did, based on the clanking of chains and the thuds of bodies hitting bars that started up as I passed them.

Something tried to speak to me once, and while I couldn’t understand the hissing whispers that started up they made me feel like a ball of ice was forming in my gut, and the urge to run away got so strong I didn’t hesitate for a second in following it.

I ran until my lungs hurt, and I didn’t stop until the only sound that I could hear was that of my own ragged breathing. I could feel the Fortuna urging me on, but I couldn’t start moving again just yet. Not until I had a chance to catch my breath. I took a seat on the cold stone floor and tried my best to ignore the coin’s directions.

The air here was thick and musty, which made it difficult to breathe, and the longer I was down here the worse it seemed to be getting. The urging from the Fortuna was getting stronger, but I couldn’t follow it. My head was getting dizzy, my limbs felt like lead, and very suddenly I started to think that there might be a reason that the coin was trying so hard to get me to move anyway.

I tried to push myself back up, but I didn’t have the strength. My dizziness was getting worse, and I felt so sleepy. Something was coming towards me too, I could hear the soft sound of paws hitting stone getting closer and closer. The almost cat. Continue reading Castle of Crows – Part 15

Castle of Crows – Part 14

The hall was empty when I slipped into it, and I grabbed onto the Fortuna coin once more as I tried to decide which way to go. Left felt luckier, though it was the way we’d come from, and I quietly crept down the hall. I continued on like that, holding onto the coin and letting it guide me, always following my first instinct.

Continue reading Castle of Crows – Part 14

Within the Ice

Far to the North,
Before the world’s End,
There’s a cave in the Ice,
Where no mortal dare tread.

On the surface is beauty,
Blue ice rising from white snow,
Catching the light on the sun,
Hiding secrets we will never know.

Deep within those ice blue walls,
Where the world knows only cold,
Lie sleeping creatures terrible and great,
Lost since days of old.

Slumbering giants trapped below,
Alive and waiting in the dark.
The sun does not reach them there,
Yet they await its warming spark.
Within the Ice they’ve slept for years,
Creatures old and patient still.
What difference does a century make,
When faced with such an ancient will?

One day they will arise once more,
Though it’s doubtful to be soon.
When they come they’ll bring the cold,
And trap us all beneath the moon.

The world was dark and fearful once,
And one day those fears will return.
But for now, they sleep beneath the ice,
Until they feel the sun’s sweet burn.

Photo by David Rucker

Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 3: Cage of Freedom – Part 2

The two trekked in silence for a while until Aliene interrupted the quiet. “Where do you think we should go?”

Jacobus bit his lip as he thought. “To find a map, get supplies, or wait. Do you have any money or something we could trade?”

Aliene stopped walking her eyes widening a bit. “So, is it just me or is having so many choices just as annoying as having none?”

Jacobus smiled. “We assume freedom is a luxury, something so enjoyable, but structure gives us focus, and focus makes us better,”

Aliene laughed dryly. “Didn’t realize monks became so versed in the ways of life.” Aliene spread her arms dramatically, punctuating her statement with a smirk.

The monk mimicked her laugh. “They do not mostly. That was from my first commander.” Jacobus looked into the distance, caught in a provoked memory that smeared a thin smile on his face.

Aliene adjusted the straps on her shoulders, taking a moment to appreciate the plant life thriving around them. Small creatures scurried about, the pleasant smell a welcome relief after the Morbid Row had clouded the senses with smells of wet rot. She was pulled from her instinct to catalog her surroundings by an itching thought. “You said first commander. Did you have many others?”

“Three in total, all great leaders, but the first and third were good men as well.” Jacobus lost the subtle smile he had been wearing. “Did you have only one?”

Aliene hesitated to answer. It occurred to her that the world at large didn’t know a lot about the tribes; it was something Misten wanted apparently. Her stream of thoughts was brought to a halt when she realized she had thought the tribes, not her tribes. Aliene felt her stomach tighten. She had to blink rapidly as she processed her realization. She wasn’t a member; had she ever been? Was she bound to the rules still? Should she even care?

Jacobus looked over to her as she had been quiet for a few minutes. She looked back at him and cut him off before he could speak, “Yes, just one. The tribes prefer a one-to-one mentor system as it keeps the training focused.”

Jacobus nodded. “Sounds logical. We train in such large groups that much of what we learn must be uncomplicated and easy to build on quickly. Simply a difference in scale again.”

The two finally reached a small clearing as the sun began sagging on the horizon and made camp. Aliene left the fire to Jacobus and set out with her short sword to catch something to eat. She managed to catch a rabbit and returned to Jacobus weaving a cone of reeds by the fire.

“I’ll go and place this in the stream I found nearby,” Jacobus pointed, indicating the direction. “Should be able to trap some fish overnight.”

Aliene nodded and set to preparing her catch. “I’ve given it some thought, what we should do first.” Jacobus looked up but continued weaving, waiting for her to continue. “If we want to do anything, we will need money, but I don’t really know where we could go to earn anything quickly.”

Jacobus nodded. “I passed a small village that’s along the coast east of here; they should have some problem that we can solve.”

Aliene stared into the fire watching the flames dance, some jumping up to lick the meat of her rabbit. Is such a mundane path really all I have? The thought pressed to escape her mouth but she held it back by pursing her lips. She looked up to the stars as they glittered above, so detached from where she sat.

Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 3: Cage of Freedom – Part 1

Songs from a dozen birds filled Aliene’s ears as she woke, and she nearly jumped from her bedroll, the quick movements causing the birds to flutter into the sky. Aliene let her mind run down its list of questions quickly – she was awake, sore but not injured; good start. The thought of her magic bow sent an alarm through Aliene until she slammed her hands down and found it by her side. Her pack was at the foot of her bedroll. She finally caught up with her instinctive thoughts as the fog of sleep left and she noticed Jacobus off to the edge of the small clearing. He was facing away from her, sitting cross-legged, his tunic gone, and Aliene had the answer to what happened at the end of their fight.

Jacobus’ back had numerous marks all over it, from small scrapes to deep ragged slashes. He had caught her; the bow had drained too much from her and knocked her out. The force of the bolt firing had sent her flying since she wasn’t on the ground. In a split-second, Jacobus had caught Aliene and shielded her as they both slammed through the wall of branches and thorns. Aliene was about to speak then noticed the monk had old scars along his back that outnumbered the fresh wounds; the thought twisted her mind from thanks, to concern, to questions.

“The scratches look worse than they are. How are you feeling?” Jacobus’ voice was calm, as if they hadn’t just faced a forest guardian and lived to tell.

“I’m fine, did the Leshii come after us?” Aliene asked, adjusting her shirt and trousers after sleeping in them for what must have been the whole night.

Jacobus turned just his head looking over his shoulder. “So, you did not see what happened?”

“No, it all went dark after I fired.”

The monk turned the rest of himself around. He looked ragged with darkened bags beneath his eyes. “All that was left of that beast was the two small stumps it had for feet.” He paused for a moment then finished speaking. “With that bow, you vaporized the Leshii. That shot was awe-inspiringly powerful.”

Aliene would have been shaken if she wasn’t so physically tired. She pulled the bow from her side and examined the blue, metal-like frame. She ran her fingers over the fins that extended out. “But it has a drawback.” Aliene smiled lightly from her vocalized thought, though Jacobus didn’t seem to catch her second meaning.

“Indeed, you were left basically comatose for nearly twelve hours.” Jacobus’ voice was calm but his eyes pierced her. The monk pulled his pack to him and began searching through it before pulling out a Misten Shirt made of silk. He rubbed the material, examining the dark green garment, putting it on he asked, “Are you feeling well enough to walk again?”

Before he pulled the garment down, Aliene caught a glimpse of a tattoo in blue ink, a lion head encircled by symbols. She decided against asking as many tattoos were for private matters in Misten. Aliene nodded and began rolling her bed up, lost in thought for a moment as she considered where to travel. Schillia was out but she did need to get supplies. As she lifted her pack she had another thought. “You still have the ingot, right?” Aliene asked as the two started walking along a small trail leading away from the campsite.

“I do. Centauri said the being that could use it was north, in the Thundering mountains I assume.” Jacobus winced a bit as he stepped down hard on the train as it dropped sharply.

“I guess.”

“Finding a specific place in them though is going to pose a problem. Without a map, we could wander the mountain range for a lifetime and never find anything.” The monk moved slower to stay by Aliene’s side as the path widened.

Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 2: Creeping Rot – Part 2

The bolt from her bow struck much harder than the monk had, causing the still airborne mass of monster to nearly land on top of Jacobus. The monk reacted by pulling back his fist, letting his magic fill him; as he punched the monster a loud crack preceded the leshii being planted into the ground. The monk leaped towards Aliene, making it halfway back until he spun around to see the leshii rising from the ground. The monster shifted on its legs, repeatedly snapping its body back and forth, resetting its limbs and head after the assault it endured.

With a hissing exhale of mist the leshii reached out its hand, splaying its long twiglike claws as a ragged moan filled the air. The sour scent of the leshii’s magic filled the air as the monster’s reach expanded over the ground and narrowed on the pools of black sludge. Foul air bubbled from the dark pools as the water boiled violently. Jacobus and Aliene stared as the waters calmed down; from the stillness bulged forms of flowing oily sludge, and they rose out of the different pools as a pack of grotesque wolves. Gurgling at the pair of stunned mages, the pack spread into a semi-circle and marched towards them as the leshii lumbered behind them.

Jacobus backed further towards Aliene then said, “Any changes to the plan?”

Aliene flexed her jaw, eyeing the wolven forms approaching. “Just one; don’t let the water get on your skin.”

Jacobus nodded, raising the point of the short sword he held towards the leshii. “Taking him out should dispel this, right?”

Aliene shrugged, aiming her bow again, and drawing another arrow of magic, the air close to her shimmered, then glittered as the arrow grew. Jacobus rushed away from her suddenly while flinging the sword at the wolves, getting their attention. Four of the oily beasts pursued the monk as two charged Aliene, but those stopped short at the crunching sound of Jacobus ripping up the remains of a tree half submerged in water and earth. The whole pack and leshii turned towards the monk; Aliene then figured out Jacobus’ plan and jumped up. Continue reading Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 2: Creeping Rot – Part 2

Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 2: Creeping Rot – Part 1

Under the falling rays of sunlight, the Morbid Row took on a surreal appearance. Such subtle tones of pastel reds and yellows in the sky were contrasted by the bleak ground of dying trees and smoking oily waters. Stepping lightly over the stray branches, Jacobus and Aliene moved as smoothly as they could over pools and brush.

When they were close enough to whisper, Jacobus waited for a moment before saying, “We are being watched.”

“Quiet,” Aliene whispered as she crouched beneath a large tree mostly fallen over. “I know, and we should avoid disturbing them.”

The pair had to resist activating their reach as invisible eyes cast chilling glances from every direction. Their pace was labored and tedious, and it took hours for the edge came into view, a wall of twisting gnarled branches from shortened trees. As the two travelers reached the wall, Jacobus breathed a sigh of relief as the hidden glares fell away. Aliene looked down one way and then the other, unable to see a clean path through the branches.

Jacobus turned to Aliene asking with a look, What now? She shrugged, eyeing the obstacle top to bottom. She stepped closer to the tangled branches before waving over Jacobus. The monk stepped silently towards her, his eyes still shifting to the sides. “Think you could leap over it?” Aliene asked, keeping her voice low. Continue reading Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 2: Creeping Rot – Part 1

Child of Starlight: Issue 3 – Part 1: Admitted Denial

“So, that was an actual God?” Jacobus asked, sitting on a stump, still breathing hard.

“Short answer, yes,” Aliene said between gulps of air. They were back in the forest, but every nerve was still panicking. “The Celestial chiefs can manifest Avatars for speaking to or defending the tribes.”

Jacobus slapped his cheek, calming himself a bit. “That happen very often?”

Aliene just looked at him, shaking her head; she stood to examine the bow Centauri had given her. The blue metal fins retracted, suddenly folding in a couple times, becoming no longer than her forearm. Aliene took a strip of cloth from her wrist and secured the magic bow to the back of her belt, hiding it beneath her shirt. Aliene put her pack on as Jacobus stood and did the same. “I should find another bow soon.”

“He did say not to use it a lot,” Jacobus said before his face twitched slightly. “I am assuming here, but you don’t have a large inner-magic reserve do you?”

“No,” Aliene replied as she began walking after looking up at the suns position. “If I remember right, Schillia is the closest country, so maybe we should head there for good supplies.” Aliene had taken a few steps before realizing Jacobus had stopped walking; she turned to him and the air left her lungs.

His face wasn’t angry but the air around him shivered from his gaze. Jacobus inhaled deeply, saying, “I wouldn’t suggest it.”

“Why?”

“Going there would cause more problems than it could ever solve.” Jacobus calmed himself but still looked drained from the thought.

“There a longer version?” Aliene let her hands fall to her sides.

Jacobus sighed. “We should walk and talk.”

Aliene nodded and waited for him to reach her side before they continued.

“During the fighting of Schillia’s civil war, I was ordered to do many things I am not proud of. The comfort of knowing it was in service to my country faded quickly after I was released.” Jacobus’ pace quickened as he spoke. “Without the direction I had while in the army, those memories I ignored began hounding every moment of my existence. Whether awake or dreaming I couldn’t outrun them. That is why I began traveling to monasteries.” The rhythmic pace began creeping up towards a jog. “You know the rest from there.”

Aliene was quiet a moment. “Do you ever regret being in that army?”

“I couldn’t say one way or the other.” Jacobus began slowing as he asked, “Have you ever done something you regret?”

Aliene wrinkled the area between her eyebrows. “Yeah, it was a long time ago, but it was when Hafwen first began teaching me magic.” Her pause held until Jacobus went to speak, but Aliene cut him off first. “I had been warned that using magic the first few times can mess with your emotions, the lesson awakened an anger I didn’t realize I had. I attacked her.”

Jacobus waited a moment. “But it was an accident, right?” Aliene just looked at him, face muted of expression, but her brown eyes trembled. “You just gave in,” Jacobus said quietly, half looking through her as if seeing something else further away.

“It was the first and only time. I had ignored the feeling so long it got replaced with something worse.” Aliene’s breathing turned rapid as she slowed down.

Jacobus stayed beside her saying, “That is probably true for many parts of life.” The two walked in soft silence for a while before Jacobus froze mid-step. “Well, that is not very inviting.” He and Aliene stepped out of the tree line onto blackened earth.

Aliene nodded her agreement. “This is the Morbid Row, the border of Misten’s land.”

They looked around at the dead and dying plant life dotting the plagued soil that hissed steam where it wasn’t covered in pools of dark, oily water.

Rising Song

If I told you once
I loved you–
I don’t think I foresaw
A life held back
Against a cold hard wall.
You suffocated me
With sparkling chains of words
I tried in vain to embrace.
I was grasping at an empty vessel
Of half-meant hopes and dreams,
And ‘almost like a dream’ meant
Nothing
If I could not catch my breath
From running aimlessly to escape.

A young woman’s escape–
I leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind
As I run out of the monster’s howling lair.
You carried me away
From the truth of a thousand lies
And wounded me with blows.
The skin is thick on the scars
You dug into the mental flesh
Of my blood-stained heart.
The places you struck me
Will heal with the falling snow.

Ring off finger
And flung away.
My finger can bend again–
I was numbed to the bone
From hypothermic waste.
Screeching,
I flung open the bars
Of the prison in which
You held me.

Your heart’s key–
I never meant to unlock
That door.
I threw the key away
Somewhere in the garden,
As drifts of white
Danced in the solemn breeze.

You denied me life
And pushed me inch by inch
Into a living grave.
I was a foot deep in mud
Before I hitched myself up
And braced my feet against the wall.
I won’t say it was easy–
The grips at the bottom
Were hard to cling to
And you were there holding me down.
I made it anyway
And overcame.
Your smug face shuddered
And collapsed into itself
Before the smoke cleared.

That smile was a dream
I attempted foolishly to keep.
As the flames of your fire
Scorched the meat
You had me cook for you,
The bonds of female servility
Were already crumbling
At our feet.

running in woods
“I was numbed to the bone From hypothermic waste.” Photo from: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com

As you held me down sweating
Against tear-streaked sheets,
I watched the window open
A crack to let the wind in.
As you pulled away and stood
At the door beckoning me to follow
Down the hall of portraits
Of faces smiling in false confidence,
I leaped at the chance
To fly out the window
And baptize myself in
Melting banks of snow.

You can swing at me again–
Your broken dagger was
Never too sharp anyway.
I won’t be hurt again
By untended wounds.

When spring comes,
I will run barefoot
Through the woods
With the sun beating down
And the wind following
My movements
There
And never back again.

Is my neighbor a werewolf?

Through various films (and television shows), we’ve seen many different versions of werewolves; such films include Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Twilight, and Teen Wolf. In these examples, the inhuman capabilities seem about the same, as does the way the people change into wolves. Sometimes, they don’t even change all of the way and become a sort of wolf-man, like in Harry Potter. Each time a werewolf is portrayed, they usually have a strong association with the full moon controlling their powers and supernatural abilities.

After transforming into a werewolf, one obtains superhuman strength, increased reflexes, and enhanced senses. As cool as it would be to have those wolf powers, when shifting from man to wolf, the experience is usually depicted as painful. Often, the shifters show no sign of human conscience while in wolf form.

Who is a werewolf? Graphic from the Scribe's Desk
Who is a werewolf? Graphic from The Scribe’s Desk

So where does this legend come from? The stories originated in Europe. Just like accused witches, those who were thought to be werewolves were questioned, tortured, and killed. Some Christians also associated werewolves with the devil and evil. At times, serial killers claimed to be werewolves, as well as those with clinical lycanthropy, which is when you believe you’re a werewolf.

There are several theories as to why people even considered others to be shape-shifting humans. One possibility is that they misunderstood the condition of those with rabies. It’s possible that they connected the aggressiveness, confusion, and hallucinations of those who had the disease to animalistic behavior and therefore a transformation.

Another theory from  folklore suggests that since livestock and people would get murdered during the nighttime, that’s when the shifters transformed. Therefore, those with porphyria were highly suspicious. Porphyria is in a group of hereditary diseases and one of the symptoms is for the skin to become extremely sensitive to sunlight. This causes redness, blistering, and sometimes scarring.

A third possibility that contributed to the idea of werewolves is a rare disorder called hypertrichosis. It’s a disorder which causes excessive hair growth. Not only does is grow a lot, but it could grow thickly on any part of the human body. This can cause the same hair growth men have on women. The hair can grow around their lips and chin. This disorder can affect anyone of any race.

Unfortunately, there’s no real conclusion as to the exact way these rumors and myths begin, but it’s safe to assume that the lack of understanding that science has been better able to fix over the centuries went a long way towards the entertaining movies and books we enjoy today.

Run, run as fast as you can

RU’s squirrels have acquired a high level of fame on campus. They’re so famous that they are on the RU “Bucket List” on the school website. The last item on the list is to meet one of these little buggers. From my experience, they don’t even care. They’re fearless.

Since I have yet to have many dramatic interactions with these fearless, furry critters so far, I went and interviewed one of the Whim staff members. The staff member is Haley Waggener, section manager for Science Tech and Health and this is her story:

So, what happened?

Radford Squirrels are more devious than normal squirrels. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham
Radford Squirrels are more devious than normal squirrels. Graphic by Grace Higginbotham

“A squirrel chased me after I got my muffin. I mean croissant. The squirrel, it just came after me. I was walking from Starbucks and this squirrel…it just kept following me. I was like, “Woah, man. You’re cute. Hahaha!” Then it kept coming closer and I was like, “Okay, that’s close enough,” but it just kept coming closer. Then I noticed that there were more squirrels waiting and I knew I was in trouble.”

How did that make you feel?

“I was frightened!”

Go on…

“Well, at that point I started picking up my pace because I though, I can probably outrun these monsters, because I’ve seen what they can do. At that point, I was feeling a bit foolish, as I checked that there was no one around as I jogged away. Yeah then the squirrels started picking up their pace.”

How many squirrels were chasing you?

“Well there was just the one, but there were two, maybe three others that were closer to the building, waiting for their chance. When looking around, I realized that one of the grounds keeps was on his cart. We made eye contact as I ran in my zig-zag. I think he must have realized the perilous situation I was in because he started advancing towards me with his eyes on the squirrel.”

“He blocked the squirrel’s path and I froze, quite embarrassed because I needed rescue from a squirrel.But he must have seen more horrors than I, because he gestured for me to run. So, I did in the most dignified fashion I could muster. I went to class and most of them said that similar things had happened to them.”

What became of the croissant?

“I ate it.”

If any of you or your friends have a legendary squirrel story, please leave a comment or make a submission! If you’ve been traumatized by one of these little devils, and need advice on how to move on, submit a question to highlandersanonymous, your RU advice column.

 

Vampires: Myth or misunderstood?

Vampires have been part of the human menagerie of nightmares for quite some time, and have experienced a recent surge of popularity due to books like Twilight and shows like “True Blood” and “Supernatural.” But while these dangerous (and oft-times charming) denizens of the night are ubiquitous in modern culture, one can’t help but wonder what spawned the myth in the first place. Before vampires were demons, fiends and forbidden lovers, what were they? Continue reading Vampires: Myth or misunderstood?