Where do Giant Squids come from?
My Dear Readers,
In an ancient and unknown time, in a lull, as it were, amongst my many adventures, I found that I had settled into a rather unfortunate spot.
I, Architeuthis dux, giant squid of old, was encased in a perfect crystalline sphere crafted by inhuman, extra dimensional processes entirely indescribable and inconceivable, even by my own immense cephalic sack.
I was the jewel, sin qua non, of a deep and expansive horde. My own capture was lost to memory, my entrapment was endless, and the expanse of the horde was black even to my optically perfect eye.
I rested amongst coins, chests of precious documents, fetish objects, statuary, arcane devices, rods, staffs, cloaks, undying creatures kept locked in gilded cages. All of this revealed by the sudden arrival—with a thud—of a smokey, oily torch which had fallen to my left, crushing a rather large spider which, pale and ethereal, had been spinning a most elegant gossamer web. The fire of the torch hissed in the green ichor of the writhing beast, and I was granted the briefest moment to appreciate the grand and intricate architecture of her dying creation before it too was incinerated by the flame.
"What the shit is this shit?" said a small man who shimmied grotesquely down a rope.
Two women leapt from over the man into the umbra of the torchlight. The first was thin, pale, plain. The second was titanic. The man grunted and slithered, still hanging up above the heads of the women.
The plain woman knelt to retrieve the torch. She lingered over the corpse of the arachnid who was, until her demise, my sole boon companion for the duration of my confinement; we had spoke often on matters geometric, and yet I had never learned the correct pronunciation of her name, and now felt sorrow at this ever-expanding loss.
"Kor! Quit wiggling!" The titanic woman bellowed. She slapped at the man's legs and he flittered his fingers at her.
"Stop it, Mamda," the little man whined.
"Just jump, you weasel!" And at that, she yanked the man off the rope by the rope belt of his tunic, casting him into a tumble across the stone floor of the horde.
The Mamda and the weasel investigated. Black haired, broad shouldered, Mamda casually relieved the pale girl of the torch. The girl turned her attention to the gathering of small pebbles.
Mamda held up a small clockwork fetish whose origins I only vaguely recollected. It was a serpent man, whose one hundred sacred components had been precision cast in platinum using molds handed down from an ancient civilization, unknown even its assembler. She inadvertently warmed the oil cylinder with the heat of her thumb, activating the tiny engine which drove the device. The eyes luminesced, the arms and tail writhed elegantly. The little man sang for her a song which sizzled through the air, and from out of miniature holes along the ridged spine their came pale lights.
Startled, she dropped it. It snapped apart against the stone floor.
I fear that nothing of its kind from that long-dead civilization has survived.
"Watcha got?" Weasel came back around holding up an oddly shaped crown, which Mamda promptly swept up on to her broad, misshapen brow. With the silver and gold bangles hanging about her deep, brooding eye sockets, she admired herself in what she took to be a mirror, but was in fact my black eye behind glass. She sneered and primped.
"Most of this shit is shit," she sighed as she adjusted the crown, "but some of this shit ain't shit."
"Well said," the pale girl mumbled. She had almost completed a perfectly executed cairn over the body of the dead spider.
Mamda took a breath as though to say something, and then instead kicked a gold bowl at the girl, who received the blow against her shoulder without complaint.
The bowl, unabated, glanced across the plain girl's shoulder and continued on, clanging against a pillar which held a noble bust of a nameless potentate from yet a different forgotten realm. Carved from a dense black stone, it tumbled, and struck something in the shadows with a discrete, crushing finality.
Then ancient hinges whined.
From the great cavernous abyss there came the sound of breathing, struggling, and a slow retreat into the blackness.
The weasel crumpled, and said in a small voice, "There are things in here."
This was prophetically followed by a series of definitive, sharp clangs, and then by a series of metallic groans and whines, then a final muttering, both informative and affirmative.
Mamda peered into the gloom, and then considered the torch, when there came an explosive retort, as of a canon firing or of a great stone falling onto thick ice. The sound bounced ominously about the huge expanse of the cavern.
Then the voices in the dark grew more assertive, and though the language was guttural and alien, it had taken on the even cadence of command and response.
Mamda dropped the torch and fled into the shadows as a march began. Kor, the weasel, quickly followed. The girl, pale, in a threadbare but intricately detailed gown, knelt before the grave of the spider.
Out into one expanse of darkness the marching snaked through unseen paths amongst the piles of loot. The beasts would stop upon a moment to beat open another prison and to call to the inhabitant in martial tones.
With one thin finger the girl inscribed a circle about the cairn, and sigils in the dust upon the floor. She leaned over the grave to gather up the pieces of the broken clockwork fetish. She peeled back the articulated thorax of the silvery machine and withdrew a set of pistons small as sewing needles, which she arrayed amidst the inscriptions.
Out in the other shadowy retreat, the two goons stumbled and whimpered, the woman berating the man all as they scrabbled along the walls in search of shelter or escape.
The girl extracted a long, sharp leaf spring from the fetish and cut her arm. She drew a drop of blood onto the cairn, and then sang a song which echoed the harmonic structure of the music played by the clockwork fetish. The language sounded old and alien in her mouth, but she unfolded it carefully, with skill.
A strand of smoke rose from the blood drop, and then a ghostly spider crawled up from out of the grave, translucent, iridescent. She allowed the spider to tentatively crawl up onto her hand, quickly up her arm, around her shoulder, and then it puffed away into the air and was gone to wherever spiders might go when called there by their own saints. I was cheered by this.
She looked up at me and smiled.
The beast army had moved distant now, down a lost corridor, but they continued to amass forces. The smashing and the clanging was punctuated by cheers, and the bellowing of still greater beasts deeper in the dark.
Weasel Kor and Mamda were also far away, but they were still within my ken.
The pale girl stood, lowered her chin, searched my eye. Her face had gone dark, but a smile flickered across her pink lips.
"I had no idea," she said finally, "that my father had one of you down here."
I had forgotten until that moment that I was, in fact, there, in front of her, trapped in a bubble of delicate glass.
The beast army roared and the girl smiled broadly, honestly.
She terrified me more than a thousand freed beasts, and I wished then that the bumbling thieves could have taken me with them to whatever ill-considered hole they had crawled into.
But all of this is, essentially, preamble.
Your Giant Squid
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson