A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Ogre in the Playground

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    Default Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    She lay on the log to get out of the cold mud which leached the trickle of the sun's warmth from her. She rarely moved far from the village when the air and water turned cold and gray clouds hid the sun, but this morning the cold sky was blue. Once the sun rose above the treetops its warmth would fill her with its energy, push away the lethargy that made her lazy in the cold months.

    Her tail tip, dangling in the water, felt the rumbling vibration that could only be the voice of a male elder. Her tail-tip was not sensitive enough to understand what was said, but she felt the urgency in his call. She retrieved her fishing spear from the mud, stood, and jumped into the river's edge where the cold brown water began sucking away what warmth she had gained from her sunbath.

    The voice was clearer, a deep, resonant, rumbling that echoed down the fingers of the river. Her jaws picked up the sound and focused it in her ears. Only the males could speak the farspeach, and only one of the ancient, giant males could speak from such a distance.

    "Trouble, humans. Blood in the water, blood on their spears."

    The message repeated, and then a second message followed through several repetions:

    "Scouts out. Observe but do not interfere. Everyone else go to shelter. Avoid humans until their madness passes."

    When the ancient male paused the elder males took up the chorus and the message propagated down all the winding bayous of the delta.

    She clutched her spear and slowly swam in the serpentine motion which would slowly build speed as it warmed her against the river's chill. Ahead were trees so old and massive that their roots had pushed down the ground forming a maze of tiny channels between their trunks and beneath their outstreached roots.

    In the center of the island a fire was already building amid the cluster of mud-and-reed huts. Its warmth was welcome after the cold of the river, and her aunts and cousins were gathering.

    The males were gone. Naturally. Even the young males would want to be seen to be guarding the village. It was unlikely that humans would venture into the swamp, and less likely the males would allow them near the village, but males would guard anyway.

    Matriarch stood by the fire, watching. Counting. When enough of the tribe had gathered she might speak. Or not. She probably knew nothing the rest of them didn't already know.

    On the far side of the fire her age group clustered. As she walked to join them the deep voice of Matriarch said, "Kaasraa, attend me."

    "Yes, Matriarch?" she asked.

    "I may need you. Stand near and attend me."

    "Yes, Matriarch."

    The eyes of the others turned to her for a moment. Her status had just improved. She took a stand behind her elder and she couldn't help but pose a little.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-06-25 at 05:40 PM.

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Ogre in the Playground

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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    The male was young enough that his scutes were almost flat beneath his skin, though the ridges above his eyes and the crest on the top of his skull were beginning to show. The shiny slickness of his skin was another indication of his youth. Kaasaa glanced at the back of her own hand, at the wrinkling of her own smooth skin, and was amused to realize that she was judging the boy's youth from the perspective of two or three summers of seniority.

    Her attention snapped back to the conversation when the youth spoke again.

    "Grandfather said to bring to you the message, but I saw nothing with my own eyes. Just the taste of blood in the water. Meatbeast and another that I have never tasted. Much blood."

    "Humans sit on the backs of the meatbeasts to fight one another," Matriarch said. "It is so," she said to the doubtful faces.

    Continuing, she said to the youth, "Tell Grandfather that the village of Twelve Trees is provisioned and defended. Our warriors are his to command. Our hunters will remain within half a day of the village until the human madness passes."

    "Yes, Matriarch," he replied.

    "One more thing," she said. "Kaasaa, attend me."

    Startled to be addressed in the council hut so full of elders, she stammered, "Y-ess, Matriarch?"

    "Go with Eeahs, watch and learn. You are my eyes. When you see what I must know, return to me."

    It was a half second before she realized that Eeahs was the boy. Realizing that, another question occurred to her.

    "How will I know when I see what you must know?"

    "You will know, or else we will know that you will never become my replacement."

    It was a thought she had trouble absorbing. Matriarch? Matriarchs were old and frighteningly powerful. She was hardly mature...

    "You are dismissed. Equip yourself, eat, and feed Eeahs. Go with my blessing."

    She rose to her feet, aware that the roof-beams that forced Matriarch to duck were well above her head. As she left she saw jealousy in the postures of some of the elders. Clearly some of her aunts wished for the favor Matriarch had shown to her. Her path would be tricky now, to navigate the heirarchy of village politics. Why had Matriarch chosen her over all of her crechemates? Even over older, more powerful females?

    "Which way to the larder?"

    "What?" She had forgotten the boy.

    "I hunger."

    "Oh. No. Stay with me. I want to be sure you don't over-eat. We will have a bite before we go. A small bite.

    "Here is the armory. We will need packs and tools."

    "Females are strange," he mumbled as she pulled aside the hide covering the hut across the mud from the council hut.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground

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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    He swam well, she noted as she navigated a difficult log-jam choking the flow of the cold, dark river. Much of the time she couldn't see him, but she could feel the pressure waves of his passing in the bones of her jaws and along her flanks where her broad belly scales merged with the smaller scales that covered her back and limbs.

    Of course her spear hampered her movement, as did her harness and her packs. His own packs were smaller and he carried no weapon, but even so he moved so effortlessly that it soon became apparent that he was letting her keep up.

    Then he slowed and came to a stop in the center of the channel. Inflating his throat-bladder he began to grunt in a voice not much deeper than that of a juvenile, but it still resonated enough to make ripples on the surface of the river.

    "Messenger seeking passage," he repeated three times before the thunderous reply from a nearby male, obviously many years older and much larger, vibrated through her body.

    The boy accelerated straight down the channel then and she followed, her skin still tingling from the unseen male's powerful voice. The sensation was pleasant, and frightening, and exciting.

    As she worked to keep up with the boy's easy, fluid movement, her mind drifted. She wondered what it would feel like to have his scales slide along hers, to twine their tails together, to feel the sensation of his voice pulsing all over and through her body...

    Then he did grunt in his high voice and her fantasy faded. In her imagination his voice had been much deeper.

    "Wake up!" he said in normal speech, his head above the water. "We have to get out and walk."

    In the moonlight she could see steep clay walls on either side of the channel, and above them trees. They were different from the trees she knew, but the air carried the scent of rosin. These were the living trees which so often floated into her swamp as logs and were harvested by the village for firewood, glue, and medicine. Ahead on the constricted channel a pile of them blocked the channel.

    The boy was already climbing the bank toward a notch a body-length above him. She saw an easier path up the log-pile and moved toward it.

    "NO!" the boy commanded. "This way!"

    Annoyed, she continued toward the logs.

    "Do you want to die?" he hissed.

    She looked at him with a sarcastic comment at the back of her throat, then saw him pointing.

    Atop the logs a pair of eyes gleamed red in the moonlight. Large eyes. And the head between them was twice as large as hers. It was watching her.

    A bark-eater. They were smaller in the swamp, and tasty, but several of her aunts bore scars from their huge orange teeth. The teeth of this one were the size of a pair of hand-shields, and they gleamed white in the moonlight.

    She turned back to the clay bluff and climbed, and tried to ignore the eyes that followed her.

    In the forest above the river the moonlight was filtered by the treetops and she had to close the clear lenses of her eyes to see. Darkness transformed into half-light. The boy was a vivid white shape standing on the pale grey ground. Tree trunks began at the floor of the forest as pale grey, but darkened as they rose until they merged with the charcoal patterns of the canopy.

    The boy set off at a half-run and skirted a blackness on their right which was a lake of water which had invaded the forest. Channels of the lake intruded on the forest, and the banks on either side of their sinuous path were lined with the stumps of trees about half her height.

    Dawn was breaking as the boy lead her back to where a gentle grassy slope went down to the river. She was trying to hide it from her guide, but her exhaustion must have been apparent.

    "Not much farther," he said just before he dove into the water.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-06-06 at 10:16 AM.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    Her exhaustion was made worse by the fingers of cold that leeched the strength from her burning muscles. Now the warmth of movement was not enough to offset the river's cold, and her only thought was to crawl onto a sand bar or bank and soak in what little warmth the winter sun offered.

    She reacted with dull surprise when Eeahn turned her toward such a sandy bank, and as she struggled out of the water she became aware of the twenty or so males already there lounging on the sand.

    "Grandmother of Twelve Trees offers greetings and the warriors of her village at your call," he was saying.

    The very large male to whom he spoke had a very red wattle that would inflate to a huge farspeech bladder. His old, worn out harness sheathed many stone throwing kniver as well as a gleaming metal long-knife. He also wore a skirt of human-cloth which was, or had become, mud-brown.

    Simply leaving the cold of the river had been enough restore her blood flow, and though she began to think better, the sudden pain, as of thousands of knives stabbing her tired muscles at once, distracted her, making it difficult for her to follow the conversation.

    "She is Grandmother's eyes," the boy was saying.

    The elder looked at her then, but she was too tired for maidenly modesty. She simply waited while he examined her.

    "And what have Grandmother's Eyes seen?"

    "Nothing," she said after she realized he had spoken to her. "But I have tasted blood in the cold water."

    "You will taste more," he said. "Go with Eeahn, rest in the sun. Tonight, perhaps, we will have something for you to see."

    "Grandfather! I..."

    He paused when the elder raised a hand.

    "Your task is to keep Grandmother's Eyes alive. Tonight she and you will have need of your strength and wits. Go, rest now."

    If his words had not been enough the dismissive wave of his hand was. He lead her up the gentle slope of sand to a place where the red clay bluff trapped what sunlight there was. Older males moved away from them as the pair streched out and faced their backs to the sun. With a sigh she gave in to her fatigue.

    Her last thought was that the politics of males was different. She would have to watch and learn if she was to survive in their world.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-06-25 at 06:00 PM.

  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    Sometime during her sleep she had scooped out a shallow pit in the sand. She could only assume that the wind-break of the low bluff had been enough to trap the mid-day sun and allow her cold-fatigued body to begin to overheat. With the sun now on its way down and shadows growing long the cooling comfort of midday now became an unwelcome chill.

    She raised her head and looked around. To her left was another depression in the sand, but the boy was not in it. Another male, this one about her age to judge by the thickness of the scutes that shaded his eyes and the deeper orange color of his farspeech bladder, sat on a nearby log watching her.

    "Hello," she said as she sat up and found her spear lying beside her.

    "Grandmother's Eyes open at last," he said. He had not moved, nor had he said anything improper, but she felt uneasy. Perhaps it was the tension in the way he sat, or his staring eyes.

    She tried to not let her aprehension show as she got to her feet.

    "What has Grandmother sent you to see?" he asked. "I could show you many things."

    "Ahsi!" growled a voice behind her.

    "Eeahn," the unfamiliar male said.

    "What are you doing?" Eeahn challenged as he stepped between them.

    "Making sure that no harm comes to Grandmother's Eyes while you are gone."

    "I am here now."

    There was a silence then which went on for an uncomfortable minute too long. The stranger stood, leaning forward as if to intimidate Eeahn.

    "It is lucky for you that you have Grandfather's protection."

    "It is lucky for you that you have that excuse," Eeahn said.

    The two stood facing off, then the older male laughed and walked away.

    "Is that how males treat each other?" she asked.

    "Ahsi is jealous. Someone will have to kill him one day."


    "Grandfather wishes for you to see something before the light is gone," the boy said. He pulled a fish from his front pouch. "I ate already. You can eat while we walk."

    She took the fish and he turned to walk away upstream.

    She hurried to catch up to him, and from a half-step behind she matched his pace.

    "What does it mean that you have Grandfather's protection?"

    "Grandfather forbids his rangers to fight."

    "You are a ranger?"

    "I am being tested."


    "Grandfather tests us all. Those who do not fail become rangers."

    "Is Ahsi a ranger?" she asked.

    "Eat your fish," the boy said.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-06-15 at 11:33 PM.

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    Kaasaa had no words for what she was seeing. The river was hidden below its bluff to her right, visible by the light of the setting sun on its far bluff. A broad field, trodden by many feet, was halved by a slow creek that fell into a ravine which met the river on the clearing's far side.

    And over the broad, sloping field lay a redness that could only be blood. What at first appeared to be mounds of some burrower was actually bodies. Many bodies. Some were larger: meatbeasts wearing strange harnesses. Most were humans.

    "What am I seeing?" she asked herself.

    Eeahn answered. "Three days ago two great bands of humans came here and killed each other."

    "There are so many!"

    "Over five thousand."

    "That must be every human in the river valley!"

    "These are not from the valley," Eeahn said. "They are from far away. They walked many days to come here."

    "They came here to die?"

    "They did not all die. This is but a tenth of the humans that came here. The humans mostly moved on. The first group in the night after the killing, the second in the next day after killing many wounded who had not died."

    "A tenth?"

    "If that much. I saw none of this. After the second group left, men came out of hiding and took what the others had not, and in the night goblins came.
    "There have only been carrion eaters today, but the goblins may come back tonight. And other predators as well. There is a lot of wasted meat out there."

    "Are there any watchers now? Humans? Goblins?"

    "No, else Grandfather would not have let you come."

    She stood and walked into the blood soaked field.

    "Hey! Stop!" Eeahn said, but she walked on.

    A sun-bloated man puffed out around the metal skin he wore. A meat-beast had thrashed before it died, and then she saw what the beast had crushed. And she saw everywhere death.

    Death's smell was just beginning. Soon it would become overpowering.

    Did humans worship Death to make so willing a sacrifice? Grandmother had said 'madness.' Were humans all insane?

    A gleam in the dirt turned out to be a spear with a metal tip as long as her forearm and sharpened on both sides, with a shaft that was longer than her height. At its base it had a spiked knob. It was much heavier than her fishing spear.

    "It is iron," Eeahn said. "Useless. If it were bronze..."

    "What else did Grandfather wish me to see?"

    "Come," he said, leading her back to the safety of the brush.

    She kept the spear.

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Ogre in the Playground

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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    The village had burned. Low stone walls remained, mostly. Some had tumbled, whether in the fires that had blackened them, or in the attack, which was evidenced by the bodies of men and animals scattered around the ruins.

    A living dog was startled and barked ferociously but settled quickly as they moved away from the small body it guarded.

    The animals were otherwise gone. Humans always had animals. And there weren't enough bodies. Unlike the field, the village had few, though still too many, bodies. There were too many houses.

    "Where did they go?" she asked.

    "I am told they were chained and went away with the attackers."


    "I was not told," Eeahn answered. He was about to speak, then closed his mouth.

    "What?" she demanded.

    "I am to allow you to learn from what you see. I am not to instruct you."

    "I ask you to tell me what you think I do not see."

    "Traps. Humans keep their animals in traps." he pointed to a wicker dome, now overturned, with a few brown feathers stuck in the weaving, then toward a fence. "Even the meatbeasts are kept in traps. Perhaps they mean to keep them in traps until they can eat them or their eggs?"

    "Huh," she said. The purpose of the strange arrangement of poles and bars was obvious now that the boy had pointed it out. They kept their animals trapped for future eating. Would they eat their own kind? But there had been a glut of meat on the field, and even here, and none appeared to have been eaten, other than by carrion eaters.

    She said nothing, but looked at the village again. "What next?" she asked.

    "Grandfather's island. It is near." He walked toward the river.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-06-23 at 09:45 PM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    Grandfather's Island was a narrow crescent between two channels of the river. Its ridge was crowned with resin trees, and sweet-sap trees lined the border between the stony ridge and the sandbank that sloped up from the river to meet them. Twenty males were on the sand waiting, arranged from the smaller youths near the water's edge to the massive elders higher up the slope. They faced Grandfather, who stood at the top of the slope facing the crowd.

    Heads turned as she and Eeahn climbed onto the sandy beach. She had never seen so many adult males in one place, and never more than one without her aunts present. She saw in a few the desire to pounce, and never had she felt more vulnerable.

    She clutched both her spears against her shoulder as they made their way to Grandfather, with Eeahn ignoring the challenging looks of some, even among the elders. Among her aunts she would have called such looks 'jealousy,' but here she sensed a deadly intent.

    When they were in the clear space near Grandfather Eeahn stopped and said, "I have done as you commanded."

    With a hand on her spine he gently pushed her toward the giant lizardman and turned back toward the river.

    "You are the guardian of Grandmother's Eyes," Grandfather said. "Remain with her. Take your places behind me so that she may see."

    Kaasraa imagined the looks they were giving behind her back, but said nothing as she and her guard took a spot to one side behind the eldest.

    "Gachuud," Grandfather said, addressing an elder wearing a harness made of the skins of venomous snakes. "Tell us what you know of the human madness."

    "For ten days we watched as humans in great numbers moved along the river as far East as the merging of the Brown Flow and the Cold Water. Many were mounted on meatbeasts, and these ranged farthest, burning and gathering up the humans they did not kill to walk them away to the South. What they gathered from the villages they put on their great carts and whipped the meat beasts so they would drag them away. The rest they burned."

    "Did the villagers not fight?" asked another elder.

    Gachuud answered, "Some did. This angered the riders. They killed more."

    "Why did they do these things?" asked another elder.

    Grandfather cut off his reply, saying, "Aahkass has that answer."

    Aahkass was an elder wearing an old, cracked harness made by humans with metal buckles and rivets that were rusted. When he spoke his voice was as brittle as his harness, with squeeking from his farspeech bladder and occaisonal pauses to cough his throat clear, as if he had inhaled water he could not quite expell.

    "Two moons past the human elders of the South called up the warriors of their tribes," he wheezed. "They came North saying the Northern humans owed fealty to Southern elders. Their debts unpaid, the Southern elders determined to take the wealth of the Northern clans and place their own elders in their stone huts.
    "The Northern elders were slow to respond, which the Southern elders think a weakness. The Northern human soldiers from the far North and East are comming South now, and they have long fought the goblins and their kin. The Northern folk think they will destroy the Southern soldiers."

    "How long until they arrive?" an elder just downslope of the top tier asked.

    "Days," Aahkass said.

    "Then the killing will end soon?" asked another downslope elder.

    "The humans believe the fighting will last at least until the heavy cold."

    "How do you know this?"

    "I spoke to some before they died."

    "You killed humans?" a top tier elder asked.

    The males down the slope became agitated. They began to mumble among themselves, and one shouted, "They'll kill us all!"

    "With so many dead, who can know ..." the wheezing elder tried to say, but the rising disapproval of the gathering drowned his soft voice.

    Kaasraa shared their concern. Her aunts told tales of the indiscriminate vengeance of humans, who would slaughter a village of innocents to pay for the killing of a single man.

    "IT WAS DONE AT MY ORDER!" Grandfather boomed, his voice deepened and resonating in his partially inflated farspeech bladder.

    The gathering quieted, and then they noticed Grandfather's gaze on the ripples of the river which cast back the last blue of the sky before night set in. A swimmer approached.

    He was long and thin and obviously fatigued as he crawled out of the water. No one helped him as he stood on shakey, cold-weary legs and struggled up the soft sand slope.

    When he reached the top he paused to catch his breath. Grandfather waited as whispers and rumblings from the gathering grew louder.

    "News from Trade-Village. Human riders approach, and our friends fear they will be taken and kept as meatbeasts. Their word, 'slave.' I do not know it. They say it is setting aside the will of a man to make of him an animal. I do not understand how this can be."

    "Humans are strange," a voice said.

    "What do we care what humans do if they leave us alone?"

    "How do you know the counsel of the humans of Trade-Village?"

    "I was among them when their scout returned. Twenty riders are on the only road. Tomorrow they will strike."

    "Then it seems we shall need to find a new village with whom to trade," an elder said.

    "They are our friends!" the slender male said. "Can we flip our tails at them in their time of need?"

    "Humans are treacherous! Murderous! Let them kill each other!"

    The heated argument that followed was mostly one-sided, with much of the shouting being done by those opposed to aiding the village and the slender male arguing against the crowd. A few elders took his side, but it was obvious to all that he was loosing. Most elders didn't bother to even join the argument.

    It quickly devolved to repeating points which had already been made until only the aide of an elder was arguing against the thin lizardman. Sensing the mood of the gathering the aide grew disdainful.

    "Let them kill one another, I say." Many sounds of agreement rose from the gathering, and he ammended, "We say. We can trade with whichever side wins. In all of this you have not given a single good reason we should risk our lives and the security of our villages by taking sides in a fight between humans."

    "Because they are our friends." The bass growl of Grandfather's voice cut through the murmers of the crowd, and the frogs and crickets of the evening filled the silence.
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-08-05 at 08:09 AM.

  9. - Top - End - #9
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    Default Re: Lizardfolk of the Northern River Deltas

    After a moment of silence Grandfather pointed to his left and said, "Those of you who wish to fight to this side."

    The gathering shuffled to one side or another as the individuals changed places. Grandfather pointed to the right and said, "Of those who do not wish to fight, let those who wish to help the villagers come to this side."

    A half dozen of the males remained in the center. The rest were about evenly divided.

    "Each of you," Grandfather said to the center group, "Must carry word of what we have done to the villages. The villages must look to their defenses in the cold moons. Divide the work so you can warn them as quickly as possible."

    The center column made its way into the river. The thin lizardman stepped from the first group to the second, saying, "I didn't know that saving the villagers without killing humans was an option."

    Some others joined him until Grandfather said, "Some killing will be needful."

    The thin lizardman turned back to rejoin the first group but Grandfather said, "Kennk, stay. You must return to the Trade Village."

    Kennk stopped between the groups, looking at Grandfather.

    "The task I have for you is a most difficult one. We cannot protect them over the cold time. They must move to a hidden place. Turtle Island has food and dry ground. You must lead them there.

    "Even in the year's end when the water is low humans have difficulties moving in the swamp. You must help them because they will need their boats to carry their supplies.

    "We who go to fight the invaders will only be able to give them days; when the elders of the invaders discover what has happened we all must be gone: villagers and lizardfolk.

    "Do you understand what you must do?"

    The thin lizardman said, "I must move the humans to Turtle Island and they may not wish to go. I must teach them to survive in the swamp before the cold takes my strength."

    The thin male asked, "Grandfather, should not an elder be given the task?"

    "No. The humans know you. The cold will take the strength of the elders sooner. Ask their counsel, but the responsibility is yours."

    "Yes, Grandfather." Kennk turned to those on Grandfather's right and said, "Those who follow me, come."

    The group following Kennk began to enter the river. Of the ten remaining, five were elders. Grandfather said, "We will buy time for the rest. If we destroy the riders, how long until the others look for them?"

    "Three days. No more than six," a deep voice wheezed.

    "How can it be done?"

    Another elder said, "In the hours before dawn, the humans will sleep. They may set a watch, but he will wish to sleep. We may come upon them them."

    "Agreed. Anything else?"

    "The meatbeasts will scent us," said another. "We must let the wind blow our scent away from them. We do not have to worry about the humans.

    "Good. When we are finished we must make everything appear to their best scouts that they simply vanished. We can leave no trace of our interference."
    Last edited by brian 333; 2021-08-18 at 12:54 PM.

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