Friday, November 13, 2009

Dark World: Strange Encounters

(The story begins here.)

Lassiter stirred uneasily in his chair. “It should have been barely noon! How could we have lost so much time? I rushed down to warn the others, but they didn’t believe me until they had seen for themselves. That cost us precious minutes. And though it was childish and cowardly, we at once ran back into the ravine, hoping to get back, maybe to somehow regain a few hours and emerge in the daylight.

“As we neared the caves, a robed figure emerged and called, ‘Veni, filios mie! Veni con me e sia salve!’

“So, ‘Come, my sons! Come with me e be safe’?” Darren said. “Your Latin needs work.”

“His did. I am quoting exactly, believe it or not. Languages aren’t my specialty, but I learn them easily enough when I’m around them. I even know a little Latin. But anyway, the man in the robe was evidently some kind of priest, and some of the superstitious fools followed him without a thought. I never saw them again.

“The rest of us fled into the ravine, pursued by howling. Since I had paused neither to re-check the sun nor to follow the priest, I was in the lead. From time to time I heard something behind me, but I never looked back.

“Then I saw something that stopped me—atop the ravine was a woman in a robe of some kind, with long, flowing hair, raven black, and she called out, ‘Garda vos contra li lupes de asel!’

“‘Guard yourselves against the wolves of... Of what? It sounds almost like Provençal, though,” Darren ventured.

“Yes, but it was entirely the wrong part of Europe,” Lassiter replied. “I thought she might have been from some sort of Provençal enclave, though there was some German to her speech as well.”

“Then perhaps it wasn't ‘asel’ but ‘Esel,’” Dr. Fleming interjected. “That's German for ‘jackass.’”

Lassiter pointedly ignored the interruptions. “Anyway, I can’t justify it, but I ran to her, jumped up and swung myself over the edge of the ravine. Something bit me just as I started to roll clear, and I found a large wolf trying to chew my right leg off. We continued to roll, which brought us into broad daylight: it was somehow noon again. But the pain in my leg kept my attention on more pressing matters. I kicked the wolf in the face with my left heel. It drew back, stunned and blinking in the light, and I emptied my pistol into it. It stumbled backward into the ravine, more disoriented than hurt, I think, and I tumbled in the opposite direction.

“I was on a steep slope, and I began rolling down it. The strange woman reached for me, but she wasn’t quite close enough. I rolled and fell down the slope until I passed out.

“I awoke in camp. The others had heard the gunshots and run out; I wasn’t hard to find. They brought me back and wanted an explanation for their trouble. They didn’t want the one I had. They said I was mad, and I almost agreed. What happened next nearly pushed me over the edge.”

Next: Werewolf at Bay

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