2010 HASA Birthday Stories
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Ang's 2010 Birthday Stories: 1. Helob - Nath
A draft of cold air.
A faint echo of footsteps at the entrance of the corridors he must call home.
Both were out of place, and Helob wondered what was going on. He'd barely dared venture outside his cave to hunt lately, for the Orcs had taken to only moving in large troops and they were too wary to allow him to pick off stragglers. He did not yet starve; he still had a few silk-swathed meals hanging about, but the foul taste of Orc meat and this barren land in which the air itself carried poison had begun to wear on him, and he yearned for deep, dark forests and still air.
Had it been worth it? He had survived his siblings in the nest trying to kill him and each other; only the fastest and the strongest survived, and he might be smaller than his sisters, he was faster, and had always been. He had also survived being hunted by bright, horrible Elves; and somehow he'd ended up in this cave, far away from the Great Forest, cut off from good, juicy food and breathable air.
Another draft, and now it carried a scent. He hissed; he knew that scent. A quick skitter and he was away from his lair. Immediately he slowed down again. The creature that approached had ears as sharp as a black squirrel's and it moved as silently. It had been here before, and he knew it only too well. It was dangerous, tricky, more than half spider in mind, even if to the eye it looked a bit like a Man, but small and wasted, like and yet unlike one of their plump younglings; he knew well what those tasted like, nice and juicy. Alas, there would be only a sparse meal off that one if he ever bothered to take it.
But he would see what the sneaking one was doing here this time, and not let himself be distracted by thoughts of food. He knew the corridors of his own home well and soon he had found a place to watch from, unseen and unheard. Yes, it was the creature, but it had not come alone. There were two others with it, of the same kind, though not so wasted away. Plump, juicy. Food, a part of his mind whispered, and he tensed for an attack. Trouble, another part countered.
The other two did not look or smell dangerous, but there was a hidden threat about them that he did not dare cross. He remembered the black hill in the Great Forest, and its ruler, the same One who ruled the barren land beyond the pass outside. Whatever it was these creatures carried, it was His.
Helob slumped back down and started to edge back towards his cave. He wanted no part of any of this. Let them go unhindered to whatever awaited them, doom or a hero's welcome.
Let the Dark One deal with them.
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