Lyons at the Gate
Lyons at the Gate
“Ever hear of Æsop’s fable, The Lion & the Mouse?”
“It’s an old wives tale, about a mouse trapped by a lion.”
“Oh?” the bored and cold sentry asked with little interest.
“Please don’t eat me’, the mouse begged the lion. To which the lion just laughed. But then the mouse said something quite unexpected.”
“Yeah?” the slight man asked, as his narrow eyes scanned the unusually dense darkness.
“Yeah. This tiny little mouse caught in a giant’s claws simply looked into the lion’s cold and calculating eyes and said, ‘Some day I will surely repay you’. So, of course this makes the lion laugh. But something tells the lion to listen to this little mouse.”
“Let me guess…” the nervous man quipped, “the next day the mouse does just that… he saves the lion.”
The larger, more experienced soldier chuckled, then spun his head around quickly at a snap of a twig not too far off.
“Yeah… you see, the mouse chewed through the ropes of a stupid trap the lion had quite ignorantly fallen into, setting him free at once,” he said softly, and around a matchstick he had just popped into his mouth.
Dean MacDonald, the smaller of the two sentries, had heard the sound too, along with a rather destressing sound that had followed. (A slow, half-shuffling / half-dragging sound, that seemed to come from the dense patch of woods directly in front of them.)
Despite his lack of experience however, Dean knew his cohort was just as rattled by the sound as he was. He could tell by the way Richard had bristled at the unexpected noise.
Under his breath Richard slowly said, “It’s here. Talk about the weather while I get a better look.”
Dean, a new recruit, swallowed hard and then started talking quite quickly about the upcoming forecast, and his disappointment in a cancelled fishing trip.
It had all been pre-prepared dialogue, part of his training for this station. To be able to talk for ten minutes or more, about absolutely nothing – as calm as could be, while scared totally shitless.
But Dean’s shaky voice wasn’t doing him any favors.
“You thinking of asking that girl out again?” Richard asked, with a slight smile, as he recalled the first time he’d been asked to guard Delphi’s dungeon.
“What?” the startled, and now confused sentry asked. His nervousness suddenly forgotten, as images of his recent conquest came springing to mind.
“You two ever do the nasty?” Richard asked, calmly, as he closely examined the life signs detector in his hands. It was a crude beta model, but it had worked at other sites around the world. So, Richard held out hope this time would be different.
“Nah, man,” Dean said with a blush, as he brushed a hand back through his slicked back hair.
“But she laughed,” he said with a degree of pride and a genuine smile.
“Well,” the tall man (with the thin personality) began, “that’s something.”
And then it was on them.
“Feed me,” it said.
“Wha… wha… WHA????” Dean stammered louder and louder, as the banshee’s wail grew louder and louder, as it approached the two men who had been guarding its lair.
“Yes ma’am,” Richard said with a small bow, as he shoved the smaller man at the ghostly figure of a woman dressed all in black.
“Where would you like to go?” the wraith asked the calm soldier, after she’d finished with his offering; the smaller man’s corpse curled at her now more solid-looking feet.
“The Devil’s Churn,” Richard told the woman, as he’d done on every trip before.
“There is no return trip,” she informed him, through slightly parted lips, though she seemed not to move them at all.
“Oh, there is. If you know where to look,” he remarked, as he always did.
“Perhaps, but that is of your concern, not mine,” and then, with a slight wave of her hand, the former soldier turned private security disappeared.
“Perfume is the soul of the flower, and sea-flowers have no soul.”
“Where am I?”
“At the bottom of the sea.”
“But… how did I get here?”
“Time and destiny.”
Dean looked into the watery seafoam green eyes of his companion. But the unshed tears made him quickly look away.
“How did I get here?” he asked politely, as he looked around a magnificent looking cavern full of shimmering shells and lush growing things.
It was lit by a softly glowing green lichen.
“I brought you here.”
“Why?” he asked, daring another peek at his hostess, a lovely looking woman with flowing red hair, and an ancient smile.
“This is where I bring all of my sacrifices…” she said, and in her watery voice the echo of the sea, as if you’d held a seashell to your ear.
“But…” Dean began, but then he stopped. Because he had seen his body crumple. He’d seen the deal his boss had made with this woman - for his life. He knew… he was dead.
“Not dead,” the banshee informed him, as she flitted away to the other side of the large underwater cave.
“But without a body,” she informed him with a sad smile, as she pulled a large conch shell from a packed shelf that housed a number of petrified corpses of several odd-looking sea creatures.
Dean looked wide-eyed at his hands; touching his fingers to his face, he sighed. He felt real enough to him…
But the banshee just smiled another sad smile, as more unshed tears crowded into the corners of her large eyes.
“Only here,” she told him, and then she handed him the shell.
“Only here will you feel the form you used to know,” she informed him with a more determined sort of grin spreading across her lovely face.
“What’s this?” the former homeless kid turned soldier turned private security sentry asked, his trust at an all-time low.
“It’s a chance,” the somewhat-solid looking woman replied.
“A chance for what?” Dean asked, as he inspected the large white and silver shell.
© Raena Exe 2022
*All characters, places, and events are completely fictional.
*All rights reserved.
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