A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 51


But that head and that face held the observer's eye as soon as it was noticed that the thing was looking back. The eyes were either yellow or red, depending on mood or the thing's thoughts and they changed a little almost continually.

The creature's head appeared to perhaps be the most protected part of the animal, being heavily-plated and looking most of all something like the head of a cobra, though that neck prevented the sort of movement that one might expect. There were no ears to be seen outwardly and the eyes sat in grooves along the sides of the skull, though it was obvious that their placement and size allowed for easy vision in the forward direction. There was no emotion shown there at the moment, other than perhaps interest and a great deal of intelligence.

Below that was the mouth.

Such a simple thing to say in regard to a part of an animal. Like a lizard or a cobra, the mouth was hinged far back and was filled with rows of razor-sharp teeth. There were four fangs; two on the top and two on the bottom jaw perhaps four or five inches in length and when the mouth was closed, they folded back. Hanging down from the chin, what appeared at first-glance to be a wattle was in fact a long tuft of hair which hung down about eighteen inches.

"Now that we have allowed a little time to get past the shock which we saw in many faces here," he said, "I will tell what is to be known of us before my brother tells of what is known to threaten us all."

He sat down in a squat of sorts and he began as he looked from one to the next, "We do not know much of our origins," he said, "for it has been so long that it has passed from the memories of the ones before us who are long dead and we live long. My brother and I were spawned together more than three thousand winters ago.

A careful look at us must show that we are not the same as most creatures here. We do not know where we came from. It was said by some of us that we were brought here to serve one being, but if that is so, we have not known or seen that one yet. We live here, for most dealings with humans cause only trouble for us and death to them. Our blood is hot to them and most things about us are fearful to them as well.

We live here under the earth and we move through the pathways where we wish."

He looked at Khyan, "The same pathways which your kind knows, though we do not show ourselves to you. There are enough things which think that we must be killed and come for us only to die. It grows wearisome after a time, so we hide when we can."

"Lately there are other things which run the passageways," Khyan said, "these come from you? We spend a lot of time killing them to clear the paths."

"No," the beast said, "what comes to you are only the ones that have gotten away from us. There are many more than you know. They are new here and we kill all that we find."

As they spoke. Siroc and Ghibli stood holding hands and Siroc leaned toward her sister, "Do you see it, sister?"

Ghibli nodded, "Yes, "she whispered, "I wish to know more."

She felt Siroc's lips against her hear as her sister whispered quickly, "I would be happy to see more as well."

All the while the jingling was growing louder and now they heard light clattering on the floor much like what they'd heard earlier, though it was perhaps not as heavy, until at last, a third one of them walked into the large chamber.

This one was markedly smaller, perhaps only a fifth or a fourth the size of the two which were already here. Besides the size, there was another difference to be seen. This one was a female. She stood as they did for a moment, listening to what was said around her and looking this way and that, her head swaying slowly from side to side and the source of the jingling became clear since she wore small metal trinkets in the thick black tendrils at the back of her head. With her was a younger male, who stood apart and watched having come in almost unnoticed.

None of the newcomers here knew it, but she was listening to them speak among themselves and deciding which language this was.

"Have the tellings been said?" she asked of one of the males, "I was elsewhere and could not come right away, but I am here now."

"No," the male who had spoken first said to her.

"Then I have come in good time all the same," she nodded. "I see some of the Djinn people here by the flames which I sense within them, and yet most are not true. Much of what I see surprises me," she said, looking at Saddiq and Sha-sha. "Please tell me how you are called, and I will tell of our names and then we may begin."

The others told of themselves and the creatures listened politely and with interest, though they were also looking at Ghibli and Siroc now and then as though something bothered them. They waited patiently until it came the turn of the sisters who looked unsure of how to begin.

"There was once one among us," the first male said at last, "He was the leader of a small group which followed him as though he had some important teachings. He advocated the view that we were here to serve the unknown one, and since none of us had met him, then we should seek to find him ourselves."

"It was a thinly disguised hope that we might go to the surface and make it our own," the other male said, "Mostly, that meant the murder of humans who had done nothing to us. The followers were killed and everyone hunted for him for a time. He was Dharohm - a name which in our tongue means 'Sit-Before-Stone'. He was gone from us for a time, coming seldom and then not at all when he learned that his death was wanted by the rest."

The female nodded, "That one has not been seen by any of us in a long time. My brothers were barely of age then and I was but a little older. Thousands of winters have passed.

"But in these two here," the female said, indicating the twins, "I feel a little of his life and, ... "

She tilted her head, "I also sense his death."

Ghibli spoke then, telling of what had happened and how she and her sister were spawned by their mother and how their father had been killed by the pair of them -- his own daughters. "But he did not look as you do here," she said.

"That is because he chose to change himself wanting always to go out into the world, and so he prepared himself, thinking that the day was nearing. I hope for you that you did not take his notions to heart. Tell me how you are called, and I will tell more of us."

A while later, she nodded, a little relieved that she found no ill will in them toward anyone. "These are my younger brothers," she said pointing, "Mirai and Amraish. I am called Sheel and over there, is our nephew, Mahkhad."

"Who rules here?" Dakhete asked.

"None," Sheel said, "We three lead by right and deed, but we have no queen or king. We are also not as 'legion' as we once were. There are perhaps a thousand of us, maybe a little less. We have waited and no one has come. It is as if we all slowly tire of everything. But that does not mean that we will allow the new ones to come and destroy everything as they do.

We have our place here and we do not yield. We hunt and we kill those we find. Anubis is here to try to continue his pleas that we come out and join what war there will be, he says, yet we do not see a place for ourselves in it anywhere."

The statement began a series of polite objections and gentle arguments on the part of several of the visitors. Siroc and Ghibli grew a little bored in fairly short order and, seeing that the one called Mirai kept regarding her while listening, she stepped forward and approached him.

"I wish to say that I am not one who can hide her thoughts behind her words very well," she told him, "It is something which we learn only lately from our young brother. We have spent a little time as very young ones outside, but as we grew older, our mother slowly imprisoned us more and more, so we lived our lives inside a mountain.

Now we may come and go as we will," she said smiling up at him, "and I see one who pleases me much to look at in you Mirai."

He bowed his huge head a little in thanks and expressed his pleasure to meet her and her sister, "I have never seen anyone who looks as you do."

"Can you go outside?" she asked, "or is it forbidden?"

"My brother and sister and I go out now and then," he said, "to see and try to learn a little. Mostly, we hide ourselves, but there is a wadi where I like to go alone. I like to look at it and bathe in the water there. I often sit on the sand and wonder how hard it would be to make a life in a place like that."

"Why not try it and see?" Siroc asked, "Go there with your female and your young and try. If it does not work, then do not give up. I am sure that Dakhete would welcome a family like that in her land. I know that my brother would welcome you to our land as well."

"I could go alone," he said, "My brother and I have no females anymore. We lost them in the shifting which happened long ago. Parts of the earth here opened under the ground and many fell then."

Siroc asked his forgiveness then for mentioning something which must hurt him, but he shook his head, "We grieved for a long while then, but it is the past. Have you a male?"

"No," she smiled, "To say the truth of it, I seek a male, but there are not many for what we are, my sister and me."

She looked around, "Is this wadi far from here? I would like to see it if you would take me there and bring me back. The talk here looks as though it will last longer than I wish to sit and listen. My sister and I have already decided what we will do when war comes."

Mirai looked down and smiled," It is a little far, but not for ones like me. As you wish, Siroc," he said, leaning forward to get to his feet again and lower himself a little, "Climb up a little carefully and I will bear you."

She looked at the spike which protruded from his foreleg and, seeing that it was not sharp-edged along the top, she placed one foot there and stepped up, looking for a way higher to get to his back. Reaching for one of the horns on his shoulder, she pulled herself up, helping a little with her feathered wings at one point.

It seemed to amuse him a little as she sought a place to settle herself. "Such pretty wings," he said to her, "I see that you have grace, but I think that they give you even more."

She thanked him and looking over, she saw that Ghibli had stepped over and was pointing to her and Mirai as she spoke to Amraish. A moment later, she was climbing up on him and the sisters smiled to each other for a second, before the brothers turned away and they began to move down the long passageway through the throngs of the others.

As they neared the end, it looked as though they'd walk straight into a blank wall, but Siroc saw the opening as it materialized. Once through that, Mirai told her to hang on a little tightly and as he felt that she did, he began to run. The ride where she sat was smooth, but the pace was incredible. She looked back and saw Amraish's eyes as he followed.

In only moments she began to notice that Mirai slowed and she looked at the walls around her, "Where are we now?" she asked him.

"Not all that far now," he smiled, "with you to accompany me. We are leaving the caves of Qumran."

They emerged through a passageway of rocks into the sunshine of what looked like a part of another world. There was a light blue pool in the center of several walls of stone, A thin waterfall cascaded through the air and the whole place was surrounded by rather lush vegetation and lightly wooded hills beyond that. Mirai walked right into the pool a little way. As Siroc looked around in wonder, she heard Ghibli laugh as Amraish stepped alongside his brother.

"Such beauty," Ghibli said, "does anyone live here? I think that I could live here forever and be happy."

"Oh, there are some who live nearby," Amraish said, "humans, mostly, and the animals who come for water. Some trade caravans pass by now and then, and there have been fights over the place."

Ghibli couldn't understand why a place such as this could cause anyone to want to harm another, but Mirai explained. "With the setbacks which the humans have suffered along with everyone else, they use beasts once more to haul their goods and belongings. Those beasts can only go so far without water, so places such as this are important. To their minds, who controls the oases and the wadis controls trade and to control trade is to control people.

We do not care, of course and do as we like."

The sisters climbed down and began to bathe. It brought laughter to the pair of males as they stood and watched while first one sister and then the other -- and then both squatted a little in the shallow water to flutter their wings and splash as though they were a pair of sparrows before they stood up and pulled the brothers to the waterfall so that they could have a little fun in washing the huge beasts.

The brothers were amazed, but Ghibli only laughed and said that they were in such a place of wonders and with a pair of males who they liked at once and who seemed to like them. Siroc nodded, "Back there, we must be as a pair of princesses from our land as our brother tries to help Anubis and the others in their requests for you to join them. Here, we are only a pair of girls and we can have fun. It is an easy choice for us to be here with you."

She reached up and took Mirai's face as she stretched up a little and he lowered his head, amazed as Siroc rubbed her cheek against his for a moment. She kissed his cheek and said her quiet thanks for being brought here, but Mirai thanked her in his turn for asking. The looked at each other for a moment and then Siroc brought her face a little closer to his and the tip of her tongue slipped out between her lips to lick his very softly for a moment. She tried, but she couldn't get her arms around that thick neck of his.

"Please do not argue with me over it," she sighed as she looked up, "but I have never seen ones like you either and to me, you are very fine."

She sighed after he shifted his weight and she felt his arm around her hips and the way that his fingers slid over her skin. His mouth opened and she watched as his fangs rose up in his jaws. If she stood with her hands at her sides, he could easily take her halfway down his throat before he'd have to snap her in half to swallow.

He did none of that, of course, only opening his mouth to slide out his own tongue and they stood for a time trading very wet kisses and Siroc stood it with a little quiet joy when he licked her face very carefully. Even so, she was soaked in moments from it and when they drew apart, she laughed and stepped to the waterfall to wash her face.

But the reverie was broken a few seconds later as they heard gunfire from the opposite rim of the walls. There was a pair of humans there, a man and a woman who stood with bolt-action rifles to shoot at them all.

Ghibli heard it when Amraish was hit by the slap of the bullet against him and the brief hiss of pain. She turned then, her eyes glowing in rage, but it was clear that the pair of humans had overlooked something a moment later, and it was their own safety.

There was whistling sound from close behind them and the woman turned to see a look of startled shock on the man's face and a quickly widening line across his neck at an angle as the gout of his blood began. His head fell backward a little, hanging on what was left of his spine just as he toppled over.

She began to scream as she raised her rifle, but the sound came again and the rifle clattered to the ground, her hands and one forearm falling with it. A dark hand reached out to grab her by the throat and she shuddered for an instant, her eyes bulging just after that whistling tail ran her through to emerge from just above one collarbone.

The eyes rolled back as the tail was whipped out again and she was allowed to fall then as Sheel and Mahkhad jumped from the rim to land with a splash in the pool. Ghibli turned to Amraish, "Are you hurt?"

"No," he blinked as he looked at himself and plucked away the bullet. Sheel was smiling as she waded across to them, "I think that this adds to my argument that we should remain and only watch as these fools are killed off, but I know better."

She extended her forearm and there was a satchel there as she began to speak to the twin sisters, "We have brought food. Mahkhad is healing from a fight in a dark place underground. It takes some of his strength to do and so he remains silent for most of the time to conserve what he can. We found him with many of the new demons which are brought here now. He slew many, but they were wearing him down."

They looked and saw the young demon nod his head and offer a pained smile and they nodded to him before he ambled off slowly to find a place in the sunshine before he washed.

"I do not wish to be disturbed again," Ghibli said as she raised her arm and the wind began to blow hotly. As they looked, a wall of sand rose up to obscure the low hills in the distance. Siroc raised her arm and another wind was added to her sister's, but at an angle and the wall began to spread around them. In less than a minute, the oasis was in the eye of a funnel, the air perfectly still, but in that wall of wind it was very much a different story. The only things which saved most of the land around were the trees which withstood the blasting wind because of their thick numbers. Out beyond that, buildings were obliterated and the pieces simply blew away.

"I came to get away myself after leaving others to argue and debate," Sheel said, "and I had other reasons besides. I can see that there is something of us in you both at moments and I wish to know more, since I see that my brothers are looking a little smitten to me now. I wish you well, lovely ones, but I wish to know."

"We are from the pairing of our mother with one of your kind," Siroc said quietly, "and so we are partly Djinn and can change ourselves some ways. The other way that we are is as you three. No one -- not even our own brother has seen this in us because we feared to lose his love for us. He is very young to us, and from the time that he was a baby, he has meant so much to my sister and I. He is the only one who came to see us these last few years in our prison. Now we are free by his hand and those of others, but we still fear to let him see us."

She bent down then and her hands touched the bottom of the pool. What she looked like now was very similar to Sheel in appearance and the males both sucked in their breath as Siroc returned to her more familiar shape.

Sheel laughed and nodded as she stood up on her back legs, "I knew it, and now I can give my small blessing to you both for I can see what will happen here soon. If it is your wish, I can take my leave, but I would rather stay a while and enjoy being away. You may not know much of the way that it might be, and so I would like to stay. I can offer advice if you wish and would not mind at all," she said as she began to walk away.

"Sheel," Ghibli said, "Thank you, but please stay. This is a lot of food and we would share with you."

Siroc nodded her agreement, "And we do wish to know. If Mirai and Amraish do not mind, we seek to know."

They found the small spit of sand that served as something of a beach as they ate and talked in the eerie brown light while the wind blew in a circle around them.

"So it is not us?" Siroc asked as she sat on Mirai's thigh and fed him bits of a strange and wonderful-tasting plant which grew underground and needed no light, "We have always felt foolish when we ask things directly or do things the same way."

"Not at all," Sheel smiled, "That is our way. You will both mate with my brothers very soon, because that is our way as well, and you all like each other enough for it. I can see that you like Mirai and Ghibli likes Amraish and that is enough for Sheel to be happy over. You make what you can of it and if it works, there is much happiness for each pair.

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