You ever find yourself in a situation that completely boggles any sense of normalcy you have? Like, earlier today I was minding my own business, trying to find some new kids and games. Then I was nearly eaten by a Devourer, met a Demon, spoke to a shady god that set me up to be eaten by a spider creature, and the only thing keeping that creature from eating me was an unknown, hooded entity. Now I needed to come up with three good questions to help whatever predicament we’ve found ourselves in.
What the mother loving duck was going on?
I turned to Dare, whose brow was drawn down in concern and anger. The anger wasn’t a new look, but the concern was.
He opened his mouth to speak, but the…whatever it was behind us spoke first; “I caution you. Speak no queries in her presence, lest you lose one.”
This time when Dare went to speak, I stopped him by grabbing his hand.
“She can’t hear us this way,” I said, and kept an eye on the spider-bitch as I did so. Nothing indicated she had heard, but my scrutiny deepened her scowl.
“What the mother loving duck is going on?” he asked. I burst out laughing. The Babaga hissed in irritation, but Hood didn’t stir.
“Sorry,” I said to Dare’s displeasure sizzling through our shared conscious. “Should we ask why the Demon is here?”
“Yes,” he replied. Though his tone implied I was an idiot for asking him such an obvious question.
“Why is the Demon here, in Raventide?” I didn’t ask about what the Demon had said to me, since he vowed to destroy Haven if I did so. I had no idea what powers a Demon possessed, but anything that could control a Devourer was not an entity I wanted to play chicken with.
“It is not currently in Raventide,” Babaga said, sidestepping the question.
Dare ground his teeth. Hood shifted scant centimeters, and Babaga clacked her teeth and bared them.
“Demons are the skywaves to wash clean the shores of godhood. Houses built on crooked foundations will be carried to the Celestial sea.”
“So she isn’t going to give us a straight answer,” Dare grumped, and glared at the spider-creature. His bravery emboldened by Hood’s presence.
Dare had never been good at riddles, though neither had I. I’d save this answer for Mother, though something was prodding at my thoughts. Mother was right: I could have sworn I should know this, but somehow the information was gone.
“How ’bout why we couldn’t remember what a Demon is, but Kairon could?” he offered, as curious as I was as to why we didn’t know.
“It’s a good question, but should we waste one on that?”
“You got anything better?”
I scrunched my face for a moment, rolling it over in my mind, but in the end I came up with nothing.
“Why couldn’t we remember what the Demon was, but Kairon could?” I asked.
Babaga’s laugh was low, raspy, and as cruel as a rusted blade through the eye. “Snakes atimes hide in the long grasses, burrowing beneath the ground to avoid the tread of the wolves. Little flies are scattered by the wolves, away from the garbage.” She threw her head back in gleeful laughter that tore into our ears like claws. It shifted some of the rags covering her body, and revealed a distended abdomen that must have dragged on the ground. It was also covered with white hair.
“Snorg this g–“
“Dare!” I scolded. He growled low in response.
“She isn’t giving us a straight answer!”
“Did you think she would? Plus, I got this one,” I said quickly, forestalling any more cursing. “Kairon must have some kind of protection around his shrine. The rest of us, not being as powerful, don’t. I wonder how the Demon does it?” I wondered aloud in the consciousness.
Dare, not being one for such deep thinking, scoffed. “I’d rather know what the guy behind us is.”
I tilted my head in consideration. It wasn’t a bad question.
“Last question, Babaga,” I said. She spat reply. “What is the entity behind us.”
Though we could not see his face, and though it was barely a movement at all, I could have swore Hood leaned back in surprise.
Babaga was silent for a long moment before she bared her teeth. “Spiders cannot speak on the nature of birds.”
“She can’t tell us,” I said in shock. “I didn’t think anything hindered Babaga.”
“Your questions done, and the spider’s belly empty. Someone shall pay ere some day for such a travesty,” she ground out, and then howled in frustration and hunger. “Begone! Pests!” she spat. She picked up the nearest rocks, about the size of my fist, and threw them near us.
We ducked and dodged the projectiles, which were not aimed with any accuracy lest she anger Hood behind us. Scrambling back the way we came, up the many stairs towards the city sewers, and out into the night air. The bells of the city tower clanged the hour: Mitternight.
“It should be dawn, at least,” Dare scoffed.
I couldn’t have agreed more, though to be fair time was finicky. Speeding up when good times were being had, and slowing down when boredom crept through the seconds like a snail.
“Hood is gone,” Dare observed, plucking the nomenclature from our link.
I checked behind us and he was correct; Hood had not followed us out of the tunnels.
I shrugged. “A problem for another time.” Though it was a problem that was queued right behind the one of the Demon, I’d wager.
The air was still heavy with sewer stench, but cleaner than being amongst the tunnels. Humidity hung on the air like a heavy curtain, and the streets were mostly deserted aside from the city watch. Despite all the normalcy, however, fear roiled in my gut like a chunk of rancid meat.
“Let’s get back home and tell the others what we’ve discovered,” I whispered. It was as though the night’s attention had turned toward us, and bore down on us. Watching, and waiting to fall on us like a pack of Devourers.
Dare glanced around, his eyes darting here and there, and nodded. “I want to be behind the barrier as soon as possible.”
I couldn’t agree more.