The Beast Approaches
Note: This section depicted in the above video
Tim Cognito had a plan. Or at least, they had a semblance of a plan: survive.
With the township’s chamber of leaders piled up on the floor, and the Great Spaghetti Bowl under the very real threat of teetering right off the mountain now was not the time to take the beast on.
“We have to delve deeper, buy ourselves time,” declared Tim. “We need to go underground… and by that I mean, we need to slip unseen beneath the ravioli.”
Meatball immediately ceased waggling a pointed finger at Tim. His eyes widened, and a sheen of sweat glistened across his forehead. A sure sign that there was more to the councillor’s protestations than Tim had initially assessed.
Meatball hoisted himself up and off the pile-on of Councillors and smoothed his hands down his dishevelled robes.
“Some hero you are, Tim Cognito.” Meatball spat, shaking his head. “You want to hide without so much as getting a glimpse of the beast we’re up against?”
With these words, he brought up a pair of binoculars from somewhere within his robes. They were long-stemmed, jewel-encrusted and rimmed with a pair of golden eyelashes. They were extraordinary, more suited for a Sultan at the opera than reconnaissance.
Tim, whose skills in fighting and adventuring far outweighed their diplomacy, saw an opportunity. The brave knight ran at Meatball, snatched up the binoculars and bolted from the Council Chambers.
They left behind six councillors all with an equal distaste for Tim’s character and fishy scent.
Chapter 3: The Beast Approaches
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If you want information about our hero’s characteristics and inventory at the start of this chapter go here and scroll to the relevant chapter:
Matilda and Eric turned, stunned, looking on at their erstwhile companion’s exit, unsure whether to follow into the danger. They exchanged a quick glance before Matilda grasped Eric by the apron strings and dragged him out in time to witness Tim secure themselves to a throwline and lasso the other end up to the roof with great precision.
Tim’s armour clanked and cluttered against the marble pillars of the town’s municipal building. They scaled higher and higher until they reached the slanted roof of the Council Chambers. As the Great Spaghetti Bowl teetered in time to the beast’s advance, Tim grasped onto a chiselled statuette replica of the Spaghetti Bowl that held fast to the roof’s apex.
With their one free hand Tim lifted the binoculars to their eyes and looked into the distance. Their helmet squeaked as they turned their head from left to right in search of the beast. The golden eyelashes blinked.
A ghastly figure came into focus.
Standing at least one hundred feet tall and, when factoring in its scaly tail, double that length. There was no denying it, Tim had locked eyes upon the dreaded Jabberwonky.
The beast’s waddling walk pattern was as wonky as its purported political views. With each hulking step, the many bookshelves strapped to its back bounced, barely held in place by straining belts. The giant paused only to use its long claw-like fingers to scoop up and replace the giant monocle that would on occasion slip from its perch. An unfashionable trilby hat, far too small for its dome, was placed atop the rounded mound of the beast’s head.
Tim leapt from the rooftop, and with a clang landed directly between their Spaghettian guides, the diminutive Eric and headstrong Matilda.
“Well, what did you see?” demanded Matilda.
“It’s not good, that’s for sure” came the echoing reply from the hollow body of Tim’s armour.
“Out with it! We’ve got to know what’s coming for us” Eric bit his fingernails.
“The beast… it’s the Jabberwonky!”
“The Jabberwonky?” Matilda questioned. “I thought that was but a legend.”
Tim’s armour rattled as they spoke. “Entire communities have been ravaged by its regressive practices. Great strength coupled with a questionable political ideology, it’s not a great mix.”
“What the hell is a Jabberwonky?” Eric waved his arms in alarm.
“A giant beast both fearsome in strength and will, a forceful ideologue with no actual ideology. It holds upon its back thousands of conflicting philosophical and political tomes that it claims to have read but has only a piece-meal understanding of.” came the voice of Meatball from the doorway of the chamber, reading from an ancient scroll.
“A tyrant, coming to lay waste to our carefully formed system of government,” Matilda simplified.
“A tyrant that must be stopped,” added Eric, eyes darting nervously in the direction of the Wonky One’s approach.
But Tim had already begun their descent, calling out behind them, “quickly follow into the village below, there’s no time to explain.”
And Tim’s two Spaghettian companions did, for what else could they do?
After much running, the party arrived in the village.
The Great Spaghetti Bowl was in complete disarray. Spaghettians hid, huddled beneath bales of basil or in homes with windows thatched with dried lasagne sheets. Few remained out in the open. Not a single mouth was left un-chattered, or a set of knees un-knocked. Not least of all, Eric, whose legs refused to allow him to follow Tim as they ran into a house with an entrance adorned with two skulls.
Eric was relieved to see Matilda had remained beside him. They had lived in the village all their lives, yet neither had ever dared come close to the house with the ominous pair of skulls, eye-sockets blazing from the candles lit within.
Good thing the knight was only in for a moment. He quickly re-emerged.
“You’re crazy” Eric cried “that there is the cursed home of the one and only Lady Kackel!”
“Sure, her cottage is cute but have you seen the décor? It’s dreadfully grim,” nodded Matilda, as her eyes bugged.
“And she’s a Witch,” Eric lifted his hand to his mouth to direct his whisper, “and a bleedin’ necromancer.”
“I know.” the Knight said as they fished in their trousers of chain-link for the tab of a flyer for free magic lessons. “She’s not home.”
“I try to keep my distance from that kooky wench, she freaks me out,” said Eric. “Most of the time she’s not here, she’s cavortin’ about the graveyard consortin’ with our spooky forebears.”
“Then to the graveyard we will go!”
The Spaghettian graveyard was a miserable affair. The wrought-iron archway was in disrepair, half-covered in ivy and rusted over. A dirt path led through the centre of the gravestones, which greatly outnumbered the population of the municipal township. Their epitaphs marked historical local disasters such as ‘the great anchovy slide of 1034’ and the ‘napolitana flood of 78’.
The party reached the centre of the graveyard, where the gravestones ended abruptly to give way to a clearing. In the centre stood a grand mausoleum. The graves all faced inwards as though leering toward the extravagantly cloaked figure who stood before the mausoleum. Her back was turned to the group, and one open palm outstretched to the sky, conjured a blue flame and floated it gracefully up and down.
Tim did not have a throat yet they cleared it, “excuse me.”
The Figure remained in place, back turned.
“Turn around now, or this will be your greatest regret,” came her voice, though her body did not appear to move.
The party stood in place, with Eric behind Matilda, gripping her skirt.
Lady Kackel’s head spun abruptly, though her body remained turned away. Her unnatural pose and glowing blue eyes proved she was a force to be reckoned with, for good or evil Tim was yet to discern.
She turned her head up to the sky and shrieked, “Procco! Skellanos! Toppo!”
Nothing happened. The blue orb of flames floated above her. Eric peered out from behind Matilda.
Lady Kackel began to spin. She stretched her hands down and out, with her palms up. In one quick gesture, she raised them to the sky and bellowed in an impossibly demonic voice, “Hilaffop!”
Silver tongues of light snaked from the flame. The sky darkened, and thunder rumbled. A flash of lightning sent Eric into the air to be caught in the arms of Matilda.
“Komeda Sitto Placonos ARISOR” with this last word the streams of light speared into the soil of nearby graves. Her voice no longer demonic, but competing with the great winds that had begun to blow, she yelled.
“NOW, ANCESTORS OF OUR VILLAGE! THE DREADED ONE HAS ARRIVED, YOU MUST ARISE AND JOIN ME IN THE FIGHT!”
Matilda, still holding Eric in her arms like a child, yelped in terror as rotted hands, decomposing limbs and fleshless bones began to emerge from the quivering soil.
The army of reanimated corpses was a grisly lot. Where possible, they stood upright to attention, the others in various states of hunched over from missing limbs or advanced decomposition. Many remained waist-deep in their graves.
“FOLLOW ME, MY REANIMATED SLAVES AND WE WILL TAKE ON THE THREAT TOGETHER!”
“Huzzah!” yelled Tim, harpoon raised to the sky.
There was no huzzah in return, instead, there was a cacophony of what sounded to be laughter.
A skeleton sniggered. A corpse chortled. Several ghouls guffawed. Lady Kackel remained steadfast, undeterred by the tee-hees and titters.
“I COMMAND YOU TO STOP LAUGHING” She cried, the pitch betraying the cracks in her confidence.
The giggling only crescendoed, reaching a deafening level.
“Please!” she said in a dejected whisper before turning to face Tim and the others. The flame in her hand fading.
“Returnus…” she quietly incanted.
The dissonant din ceased. Skeletons toppled into piles of bones, corpses squelched against the ground as they collapsed back atop their graves. The sky cleared. Lady Kackel’s head remained downcast.
She began to sniff.
“Don’t cry,” consoled Tim.
Lady Kackel raised her face as she put her sleeve to her nose. She had not been crying.
“What is that smell?” was muffled by her sleeve.
“Oh come on!” Tim yelled, gesturing all around. “We’re in a graveyard, surrounded by rotting corpses!”
Eric jumped down from Matilda’s clutches.
“You ok, m’lady?” he asked Matlida as though it was she who was the damsel in distress, and without awaiting her reply turned to Lady Kackel. “Oi, Lady Kackel, this is the noble knight Tim Cognito and you ought to show them some respect!”
“I should show them something alright, a lake to clean up in perhaps!” she said sarcastically.
“Enough. We haven’t the time.” Tim interjected, “I’ve come to get something from you”.
“What?” Lady Kackel rolled her eyes “A can opener to get out of that suit?”
“No, this!” Tim confidently shoved in front of her the tab for her free lesson.
“Oh, not this again. You know it’s great you’re interested in the dark arts and all but why are you lot always such poor readers?”
“What are you talking about?” Tim asked, taken aback.
“Move your thumb!”
They did so only to reveal the text: by appointment only.
Tim let out an exasperated cry. Eric, who was clearly still jumpy, dove behind Matilda.
“Look we don’t have time for this. The Dreaded One is on its way! It also happens to be sacrifice day.” Tim began pacing, “I need to learn some magic and fast.”
“You know, that’s another problem with you knights.” Lady Kackel was now playing with the ends of her matted hair. “Always thinking there’s a shortcut to magic.”
The ground shook. The Jabberwonky was getting closer. Time was running out.
Whatever could be the secret? Can Tim et al ready themselves in time? Can the Jabberwonky really preach stoicism and hedonism simultaneously? All these questions and more will be addressed in the next edition of *blows bugle* MISADVENTURE ADVENTURE.
A special thank you this week to Geoffrey Golden (writer of Adventure Snack) for pitching the Jabberwonky.
And to Tass for the fantastic new character Lady Kackel.
Voting closes on the 13th of April, 2022. Check back in on Monday the 11th of April for another Lore of the Land session.
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