Monsters - By Rosy

- 1 -

   When Rover and Spike get together, they run like dogs, like they used to run when they were puppies, hundreds of years ago. Bounding and leaping, having a barking, tail-waggin' good time. They'll run back and forth across the meadow or into the woods or into Probable Creek or wherever the winds may take them, loving every moment. Their joy is palpable and everyone moves about wearing a silly smile.

   The Rivitir is here for her maintenance call, keeping updated and charged, while we, the crew, take a couple days off. Brak and Jant catch a waggal to Elvenstead to visit their family home and of course the Heroes Я Us Collective where they learned their amazing hero stuff. Rover and Spike have goings on of their own, no doubt, and I am off to see the witches at Witchhaven in Shady Glen, not too far from the meadow where the Rivitir's docking station is at. The meadow is the old heart of Lillow's Farm and Witchhaven is the new.

   The witches know I always stop in when the Rivitir's docked and Jant sent them a message on one of her devices so they'll be expecting me. I set out with happiness and joy, taking the trail past Holly's Altar in the ancient old-growth Thagwood Forest, going up a long gradual incline then spiraling down into Shady Glen, an ancient faerie settlement that has since become an important elvish center. Witchhaven is just to the north of Shady Glen. As I approached, Nelly came running out to meet me.

   "Rosy! So glad to see you!" she chirped, holding her arms out. We hugged as I told her how great it was to see her and how great it was to be here at Witchhaven.

   She pulled back, holding my upper arms, and with a sympathetic look told me, "Hey, yeah about that. Well, we're all set up to have an adventure in the west, lots to explore there you know, but we especially need to check out the reports we've been getting of a new portal forming there."     

   "It'll be the biggest portal we've ever faced," Aggy said as she walked out to greet me. "And we thought, well, . . ."

   "We thought," Nelly finished, "being how you're an adventurer and all, that rather than leave you in an empty manor house for your stay, we'd invite you along."

   "Gosh yes!" I replied. I was delighted, as I do seem to crave adventure.

   "Good then, let's be on our way," Aggy said, leading us west. Nelly and I were joined by Lagretta and Tenner who'd come running out of the manor as soon as we'd begun. They wore big smiles and greeted me with joy.

   "You know what's going on, don'tcha?" Lagretta asked as we entered Thagwood, continuing west.

   "No, just that there's a portal and a likely adventure," I answered with a smile.

   She nodded. "Well, it's got to do with a portal alright, only this portal is huge."

   "It's the biggest and most dangerous portal we've ever faced," Aggy repeated over her shoulder.

   "That's right," Tenner agreed behind us. We proceeded silently as the forest grew thicker, darker, with shadows, long shadows that writhed and snapped. We were at the back side of the Glamoury Wall and walked easily through.

   The Glamoury Wall shows terrifying images of dinosaurs, dragons, snakes and crocodiles that once infested the Swamp of Doom to the south of us. No one knows for sure what all lives there now, but these old images remain terrifying and still serves to keep unwary travelers going around rather than through the farm. Faeries particularly like the isolation but the elves here like it too, so the wall is maintained. That's one of the duties of the witches, as maintainers and caretakers. We stopped when we were well away from the spectacle and looked back. Wow. The images are truly terrifying. We continued west into the wilderness.

   "So this here portal," Lagretta continued, " is the biggest portal any of us have ever seen."

   "And we don't know what to do about it," Nelly said.

   "It could be, probably is, extremely dangerous," Aggy put in.

   "So we're uh, we're going to have look at it. See what needs doing," Lagretta said with a smile. 

   It wasn't long before we got a look at it. First there was a glow, like a warm cover over the event. Then came the piercing blue and silver sparks of a breached event horizon and finally the portal itself. Looming higher as we neared, it seemed ominous and portentous. Easily twenty meters high and fifteen wide. Its innards looked like an endless brown tunnel that seemed to writhe rhythmically, like a slow wave in the ocean, big and momentous, yet seeming so gentle when unopposed. A lolling rhythm that was compelling. Commanding . . .

   "Don't stare at it," Aggy yelped, breaking my concentration. I blinked and looked around. The portal had nearly hypnotized me. Now it looked like the gaping maw of a long, long snake, poisonous and hypnotic. I backed up.

   We stood looking at this monster portal for a long moment. "Well, we gotta see what's in there if we ever hope to shut this thing down," Aggy said as she began walking toward the portal's wide open mouth.

   I gaped in wide-eyed horror and took another step back. Then I gaped again as Nelly, Tenner and Lagretta followed her in. With a sense of dread, I followed too.


 - 2 -

   Once across the threshold everything was the same as we'd seen from outside except it was much smaller and the fluidity was gone. We were in a long brown, solid and firm hallway that was still pretty large. Then I noticed a door, quite a ways along, that was new.  Aggy and the witches were already going toward it. I ran to catch up and was the last to step through the door into the meadow.

   I could see Rover and Spike watching us with fierce, determined expressions, then I noticed that some of the goats had gone into attack mode with their heads down, all aimed at us. Some of the birds were flying overhead dropping things, like we were . . .

   "Somehow they see us as an enemy!" Aggy yelled.

   "How can this be?" Tenner demanded. "We are at the heart of the farm; how can we be the enemy?"

   I could see defensive strategies, some of which I helped to devise, going into play. "We needa get outta here fast!" I yelped, running toward the forest. Understanding my urgency the witches quickly followed. 

   We ran until we were out of sight then we hid. After a time, when we felt for sure that we weren't being followed, I led them to a place I knew up in Thagwood Forest where, on a rocky hillside and at a particular spot, you could see the meadow. It was a distant view that Rover and I had discovered years ago while hiking these woods, something we both loved to do.

   Looking down at the meadow I could see more defensive strategies being employed. Rover was overseeing the work when Spike came rushing over and told him something. Then they both turned and looked right at us. We ducked but I suspect they saw us. What made them look up here?     

   "Something's happening," I said, unsure of what I was trying to say, "and I'm not sure what exactly but well . . . do you think the portal's still here? You know, where we found it over in the western wilderness?"

   "Hmmm, I think I see what you're saying," Aggy said, nodding.

   Tenner and Nelly looked at us curiously but Lagretta nodded too. "Go through in a reverse direction and maybe undo what going through did to us," she said, looking at Aggy.

   "Yeah, that's it, Lagretta," Aggy responded. She looked at me. "Is that what you were thinking?"

   "Yeah, I mean I didn't have it as clearly as I you put it, but yeah, I agree. We needa go back through the portal."

   We immediately began the trek to the portal. We all seemed to feel a sense of urgency although none of us could say why. When we got there, we could see Rover standing out front, but as soon as he saw us, he took off running in the other direction. I wanted to give chase and box his ears, the cheeky mutt and for a brief moment I felt enraged.

   "C'mon, let's go," Aggy said, pulling me along. "we needa get through this thing before those double dratted defenders come after us." She seemed pretty angry and the others cast angry gazes at where Rover had run off to. 

   We re-entered the portal and found another door on the opposite side of where the first had been and stepped into the meadow just as Rover returned with Spike.

   Rover ran up to me. "Oh, here you are at last! Am I ever glad to see you, Ma'am!" he barked.

   "I'm glad to see you too Rover! And Spike!"

   "Yes, Captain, Aggy, you all," Spike said, with a serious expression. "You're just in time, in fact, because we just saw some trolls a little while ago."

   "There was orcs, too," Rover added.

   "Trolls and orcs, so we been preparing without you guys," Spike said, looking important.

   "From what I've seen," Aggy said with a smile, "you guys have done a first rate job."

   "I agree, " I said, smiling at Rover.

   "So where do you figure the attack's going to come from?" Rover asked, looking anxiously toward the west where the portal lay.

   "Oh, you don't have to worry about that," Aggy said with a smile. "We just got back from a secret mission that has completely resolved your, er, our troll problem."

   Rover and Spike both gave her looks of doubt.

   "We wondered where you was at," Spike said, "but I don't think you understand, you didn't see these guys. They were monsters!"

   "Yeah!" Rover added.

   "And monsters don't just go away," Spike finished.

      With a resigned shrug I explained to them what had happened, how the portal had made us look like monsters, until we backtracked through the portal. "So I think we'll be okay as long as we guard that portal and keep other people from doing what we did," I finished.

   "And that's just what we'll do," Lagretta said with a look of determination.

   "Meanwhile we'll be looking for ways to block it permanently," Aggy added.

   Rover and I returned to the Rivitir which was ready to go and found Brak and Jant already back. They'd had a great time at the Heroes Я Us get-together and they were both recharged and rarin' to go. When we told them of our adventure Jant looked at me with wide eyes.

   "Jeez Captain, I just can't imagine you or any of the witches somehow becoming the enemy."

   "Yeah, that must have been awful," Brak said.

   "We didn't recognize them at all," Rover said, "not even a hint that I could tell."

   They looked at me with a mildly sad awe that I found unnerving.

  "Well, things will be fine now," I said, assuming my Captain position. "Take us somewhere, Rover," I ordered before averting my gaze. I was nonplussed, remembering that while I was a monster I had relished, for the smallest moment, just before re-entering the portal, the thought of springing on those weak meadow defenders in full warrior regalia. Rover, Spike and all. It had been a thankfully small but intense rush of berserker rage, that in remembrance scared me. 

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