Category Archives: The Bestiary

Thirteenth Entry: Naagin

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We have passed out of the realms of men, beyond the watchful aura of city and civilization, into the wild that breathes to its own rhythms, beating the night-songs out of the brightest hour of day.  This is the land ruled in the name of the Tiger by all that has slipped into the hidden spaces beneath his feet.

The daylight is not dappled with shadow. Tenebrous intentions have conquered the sun. 

From the green dark she arises, out of the morning steam, only to scald us with a stare that glimmers unkindly. Half woman, all serpent,  this is the dawn of her hundredth year, and her arising is the arising of ancient magics that move only in this arena.

The music is silence; the jungle; the pressure of heat and dampness curling against our ears. The drumbeats are her stomping feet as they divide from serpentine coils, still evoking the same writhing comparison.

One by one, the leaves move, the forest floor disturbed by the motions of, not one, but many serpents, their slithering in time with the dance of the woman who has shed her skin. Golden-eyed, her stare too glittering, her skin brown as the dry leaves beneath her shining feet but smooth as summer, she moves away from us. Among them. One of them, as her dancing fades into the distance.

We retreat from the eyes that turn to us as she passes, away from the tongues that taste our air and the widening hoods of her cobra companions.

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Naagin References
Naagin Wiki
More about Naagin

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Twelfth Entry: Akhlut

 

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The tracks lead from the snow to the water. The pads of wolf-paws leave their familiar marks right up to the edge of the ice, but neither the pack nor a solitary hunter is waiting by the frozen entrance of the ocean tonight. The boundary of the ice is the transition point, one flesh to another, one hunter to another, teeth of the land becoming the teeth of the deep. 

No one has ever seen them go there. There is no proof; we have come seeking it, out of the warmth of the igloo, into the dark of the night. The stars guide our guide; the tracks are the hidden signal of our quest, but not enough, and there at the water’s edge, I approach the danger myself. This is the sea beyond whale song. Here, nothing lives but hours of silence, even in the blood-red death, even in the movement of the tide, the breaking ice.

Here the arrival of the glacial freeze and the shifting of the spring ice is still quiet, still only natural noises, disturbing nothing, and in the lassitude of the black chill, beneath stars too white to touch the snow with brightness, I stare into the gleaming waves, beyond the frosted facets of their caps. The deep is alive with hunters. I taste their air, the salty exhalation of their steamy breaths. I see the black-and-white shadow of their shapes caressing shallow currents, just below the surface, predatory eyes looking up at me – 

One at a time. Always one at a time. Rising, turning, riding the promise of the swell, they turn away from me then. I will not witness the transition, but the shapes they bear are not truly orca. Fur, in the shifting sleekness, disrupting outlines that should be smooth. An elongated muzzle, tapering in the shape of a wolf, though much, much larger.

And the paw-prints, their elegant remains telling a deeper story. I cannot dare the water. This is as far as we go. The mystery keeps itself a mystery, and I return to the expedition. We go back through heavy snow.

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Akhlut References
Akhlut Wiki
An Akhlut Legend

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Eleventh Entry: Rakushinpu

 

joro

The sound of the water rushes overhead. Beside us, the great fall is a roar and in its shadow the gleam of spray and the shadow of leaves overtake the world, together with drowsy promises. 

The spirits of the mountain speak in murmuring voices, a whisper to calm the senses, a low, red sound. Of love, it speaks, with the sound of a lute  and the eager harmony of all night’s darkest passions.

Come to me.

The voice does not belong to the water.

Stay with me.

The words are a plea from which an answer will summon only regret.

Is it not quiet here? Are you not tired now? Stay a while and sleep with me…

The lady of the falls trades on her whispers, and when the sun dips past the high of noon toward the horizon, when the laziness of the afternoon is full upon us – then, at the edge of the water, climbing in silken coils, the threads come one at a time.

Each one attaches to a man. An ankle. A toe. A calf. But we are prepared, as not many before us have been. The threads are not broken, but hooked to trees, to stumps – one rooted life in exchange for each marked man. 

As the sun begins to go down, the threads are pulled, one by one, and one by one pieces of the forest crash over the cliff-side, down the mountain, into the rage of the river and the waterfall’s roar.

A woman cries with it, and the longing has not left her voice. 

Stay with me, won’t you?

There is no laughter, no speech, as we make our way down the night blackened sides of the autumn mountain. We return to our camp – to the nearest village. It is there that we count our number and find that twenty-four has been reduced to twenty-three. 

Stay with me…

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Read more in the dark fantasy novella Rakushinpu, free on Amazon until Halloween!

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Rakushinpu/Jorogumo References
Jorōgumo Wiki
Jorōgumo Legends

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Tenth Entry: Gǎ-oh

 

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From the edge of the sea, we come to a new land, the westernmost reach of our journey so far. The coast leads inward to a wide land peopled by many nations, the world growing green and gold around us. At the edge of a lake so wide it might be a sea, the feathered warriors tell their stories, and we listen with interest.

Here, among other tales, the people speak of the wind as a giant, four reins in his hands, holding the Beasts of the Wind back from destroying the world. He is Gǎ-oh, King of Winds, but we do not speak his name in his presence.

His home is in the far north, and we follow the legend, rumor that flows inland and upward, over the water to the lands of ice. When we come to his home there is the blast of the tempest to greet us, and dark haired in the distance we see him shining at the horizon’s edge.

From the north of the world he controls the four winds – Ya-o-gah, bear of the north, breathing cold fire. The fawn in the south, Ne-o-ga, who sits waiting, gentle as morning. The wild panther of the west wind, Da-jo-ji, who bears the whirlwind on his back and raises the waves…  O-yan-do-ne, the moose of the east wind, chills newborn clouds as they drift into heaven.

In silence, contemplating, we watch the reins snap, the wind’s release, howling out of the north and down to the nations of men.

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Gǎ-oh References
Gǎ-oh Wiki
Iroquois Legends

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Ninth Entry: The Gancanagh

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Out of the woods, he comes as if he knew that we were there.  Dark haired, dark eyed, the sound of his voice is a song that comes faint over the shallows. Only the music carries, not the words, but that is more than enough to begin tying down the enchantment. 

He is gancanagh, love-talker, and the sweet of his words can imperil as much as the sweet of his skin. He walks the edge of the water,  slow steps that signal his readiness to stop, to wait – for the slightest reason, or no reason. It is the beginning of his game.  Already the women among us are turning to him, lifting their eyes, their hands, fingers curled as if they could touch the softness of his hair from where they stand. 

The beasts and beings that do not belong to the human world are dangerous monsters, most of them, but this one is dangerous because he is not a monster. Because he is beautiful – because, as long as he stands smiling, it is easy to believe he could be tame. 

The air turns sweet, beguiling dust moving in motes golden as honey. The taste of it flows like wine on the currents of the breeze. He stares at us, and then at one among us, and the woman who has caught his eye is still as a statue despite the deck rocking beneath her, despite the whipped up surface of the sea. 

We turn away from the shore, before the sugar in the air overcomes her – before it addicts her, turns the core of her being to nothing more than a seeker after that dust. He watches, and the sound of his laughter follows us. 

He watches, and she watches back, as we sail away toward the dusk. 

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Gancanagh References
Gancanagh Wiki
Love Talk

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Eighth Entry: The Redcap

 

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The castle should be empty, but as we pass through open doors, the sound of iron-shod feet confronts us, pattering madly. We came wondering, but not, perhaps, believing – now, we know the story to be true. It is the Redcap, haunt and horror, too fast to escape and so we do not move. 

We stay together, watchful, wary, and when the sun sets, hear the screams and run together, but we know what the creature will do.  The sound of feet, the sound of mad, dark laughter – we watch, from a distance, wishing to inspire no more death, as he bends over a body.

An old, small man he seems, but armed with a long iron pike that he grips in talons fiercer than a predator bird’s. His feet beat against the ground while he stands, one then the other, heel then toe.  His cap is in his hand, and he drains blood with it, the red invisible in the dark. He hums, but the melody is nothing human.

Having been witness to the horror, we retreat, but slowly. If the blood begins to dry, he’ll seek another victim. If we run, we might go far, but never fast enough. 

Better not to be noticed. Better to hold our breaths.

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Cockatrice References

Redcap Wiki
Redcaps at Mysterious Britain

Image Credit: JB Monge

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Seventh Entry: The Cockatrice

 

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In the wilderness, impossible things are sometimes born that make their way into the world of man – yet it is also the case that occasionally the opposite is true. We have met such a beast, and survived to speak of it – the wizard’s dragon, the sorcerer’s apprentice. 

If the morning is quiet in farm country, and there is no crowing of roosters to welcome the oncoming dawn, be wary of walking alone. Perhaps one is near you, slaying those whose signal is as a death cry – small creatures turned to stone will tell the tale. The rock in the shape of a rodent may once have been a living mouse. 

Bird-footed, bird-faced, born from an egg a toad has hatched, the cockatrice bears a deadly venom and even to be perceived by it is death. In its glare is a swinging scythe – like Medusa, broken beauty of the ancient world, all that look directly upon it turn to stone. 

We see it from above, safe in our watchful silence, perusing the reflection of his horror and mystery in still waters. The creature itself avoids its own gaze, drinks slowly with a tongue like a lizard’s. When the beast rattles his tails and disappears into the brush, we breathe easy again. 

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Cockatrice References

Cockatrice Wiki
Cocktrice at the Encylopedia Britannica

Image Credit: Jivu

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Sixth Entry: The Roc

 

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The great bird of the east comes down to the coast at sunset. It is an eagle, and yet its wingspan clouds the sky, colors the surface of the water with shadow. It is the screaming of the storm and the sound of its beating wings is all but the whirlwind.

Men on the boat that it approaches scream in all the tongues of men the region knows, but there is no saving them – already, every other boat but ours flees for the horizon, away from the dark arch of those wings, the glare of the great golden eyes.

It comes fast – a glut of terror as the bird bolts down its meal of men. There is a new pitch to the screams – then there is silence. Strewn across the ebb of the tide, the wreckage of a single sail turns bloody in the current, wrapped around its mast. Broken spars heave, and one breathless body with them, riding the swell of the bosom of the sea.

The great wing-beats return then, a sound like a hurricane, and our boat is pushed back, back, skidding across the surface of the ocean. The golden eyes scan the surface of the water, but the bird has had its fill. With a screech it rises back into the sky, disappears in the direction from whence it came. 

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Roc References

Roc Wiki
General Information
The Roc at Ancient Worlds

Image Credit: GENZOMAN

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Fifth Entry: The Bakunawa

 

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From the depths of the sea, he comes, fury in his flailing tail and all the ocean whipped to froth around him. We have come to witness his arising, the seeking of his wrath toward the sky. 

He is the dark of the night compelling, a rising serpent on wings of storm who opens his mouth for the moon. A little at a time, the wide maw captures the curve of the lunar disc, turns bright to blackness. 

A bowl of darkness in which the stars intensify, the sky glares for a moment, empty. Then the silence of the night gives way to clamor – banging – drums – a cacophony that comes from the islands behind us and drives against the dark.

As the noise grows, so does the light. A little at a time, the dragon disgorges the moon and descends into the sea. He will sleep until he grows hungry again.

The people will be waiting.

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Bakunawa References

Bakunawa Wiki
Seventh Moon Project

Image Credit: Gpotious

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Fourth Entry: The Mermaid

 

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 “I didn’t mean to hurt you –

The skin of the sailor in her arms is blue with silence. Blue silence, blue eyes, blue, endless, entrancing, the captive perjury of the sea, the dark eternity of broken promises; blue, but her hair is as black as the deepest grotto and entangling as the swaying, twisting weeds.

I was just so lonely –

Her own eyes are green; green shadow, yellow in them, the hue of deadly venom. She carries piercing deadliness with her in those eyes, the lively flicker of the deep, the shimmer that comes from sun on scales.

So lonely!

No movement. Silence; lapping of the surface water in the silence, too omnipresent to be noise. Like atmospheric weight. She lashes out at him, drags him under; pale arms, gray-shadowed beneath the surface of the water, long fingers, long nails, long tail –

Merflesh.

She speaks and now, below the surface, we cannot hear her, only see her moving lips. She gets no answer. The last stream of bubbles went up from his cold lips long ago. She turns away angry, flounces like a spurned queen back to the surface. The cove is calm, but her presence roughs the water into roiling. She sees our ship, and at the railing she sees us staring out to sea.

She calls to us, and we know it is time to leave. She sings, as the ship is turning, and we listen but we do not turn back.

We do not answer.

We do not speak.

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Mermaid References

Mermaid Wiki
Mermaids at Northstar Gallery

Image Credit: Serena-Kenobi

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