Into the Vale of the Basilisk

Penelope and Lyllywen often played in the hidden glen; its sweet stream fed hanging ferns and ironwood trees. The cries of crows and other birds mixed with the babbling stream to make a sound that was almost magically relaxing.

It also hid the sounds of danger.

Penelope, oh fair Penelope, why does thou not hear the breathing snort of menace? Why does thou not feel the stone-inducing stare of malevolent hatred? Perhaps because thoust mind is elsewhere, dreaming the thoughts of a young princess; perhaps thou are dreaming of a handsome baron or a fiery prince. But what thou should be dreaming of lies in wait, snorting fear, death, doom.

Lyllywen, sharp Lyllywen, canst thou use the quick brain to detect the silence now in the glen? Why does thou not cypher the recent rumors concerning unholy creatures? Perhaps because thoust mind is elsewhere, thinking the thoughts of a young magic-user; perhaps thou are thinking of arcane geometries or complex philosophies. But what thou should be thinking of lies in wait, gazing despair, darkness, doom.

The basilisk had been watching the twins for many seasons: rain, snow, sweet spring, even fairer summer. She knew they did not sense her; she knew that they came to this place to escape their fears, their duties as Princesses. She also knew that that these humans had power, the power to give her gold and magic and gold. She had waited and watched with the patience of the reptilian; the slow dark patience of a breed that counted years as humans counted months. And now it was time to strike.

Penolope heard the breaking of the trees first. She turned at the sound and screamed. In front of her, she saw the stuff of nightmares, of opium-addict benders, of  dram-addled binges. Scaly hide reflecting the midday sun; foot-long teeth shiny and gleaming; claws raised and filthy. Lyllywen also screamed, turning to run from the monstrosity. Run, Lyllywen, run, escape this beast and fly back to thoust father’s lap; run back to Castle Overbrook, ancestral home of your father’s father’s father.

But it was not to be. Lyllywen heard the intake of breath and then a hot stench filled her nostrils. She tried not to inhale but the stink was too much; it gagged her, filled her lungs with fetid gas. Lyllywen felt her vision darken and then–nothing.

The grim visage of Nerull would have been a blessing for Penelope, for the basilisk had other plans for fair Penelope, Penelope the pleasant, loved by her dress maidens. With one claw, Sizz’lith struck at  Penelope’s head, but Sizz’lith did not want to kill Penelope, only scratch her enough to allow the poison to do its work. Penelope tried to duck, tried to escape the dirty claw. She felt it run along her shoulder, cutting her flesh. There was a feeling of pain, followed by a numbing sensation. As she tried to run, she could feel the numbness move through her body and then no more.

The basilisk waited as Penelope crumpled to the ground. Once she was down, Sizz’lith opened her mouth and with a surprising amount of dexterity, slipped one of her teeth under the leather belt around Penelope’s waist. She picked up the princess and with that same dexterity moved out of the now silent glen.

For Sizz’lith, it was worth the wait.

 

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