Part 5 – The Obsidian Eyrie
Jacob Bublesnatch was having a bad night. He was surprised to discover that being hauled through the broken cockpit window of the airship by a fiend of the night was only the beginning of his terrors. The wind rushed beneath him as he dangled from the beast’s claws. Jacob made a distinct effort not to look down at the ground thousands of feet below, but it was unavoidable. An anguished wail left his mouth every few moments, as the creature shifted its grip and he swung horribly over the landscape.
In a time of less stress Jacob might well have admired the dunes below. Endless waves rippled across the desert, punctuated here and there by wells and hollows formed by the fierce winds and currents. In the moonlight it seemed like the sea caught in an instant of lightning that went on forever. It would be a long way to fall and it would not be a soft landing. That death might still be preferable to the unknown fate that awaited him.
He shuddered uncontrollably from fear and the cold that gnawed at his face and fingers. By twisting his head uncomfortably he could just make out The Dove’s Eye far behind them, her blazing lights illuminating the front of the balloon like a roseate bruise swelling in the sky. Jacob wondered if they knew he was gone. He wondered if they would rescue him. He wondered if they would rescue him before he was eaten. Jacob tore his eyes away from that homey, hopeful sight and winced as the beast’s claw dug into his left shoulder again. They were flying almost directly towards the moon, and it loomed so large and bright that Jacob had to squint.
When Jacob peeled his eyes open the moon was gone and his future was black, a blackness so profound he feared that he had already died. Then the moon caught the very edge of a vast cliff that loomed out of the night. They were flying directly towards an opening ringed with moon-brightened fangs. The image of flying into a mouth was inescapable, much though Jacob tried to tell himself it was just a cave his mind screamed that he was about to be eaten whole. Countless holes stretching out to every side of the gaping maw for as far as Jacob could see. Then he and his captor were swallowed up by the dark.
The darkness was complete; sound expanded to fill Jacob’s blindness. The rushing of wings flapping up and down, the sound of the beast’s breath and Jacob’s own frantic panting echoed all around. His body swung back and forth from the claws and he constantly tensed, expecting to collide with a wall or some other nameless horror in the pitch. In the darkness there was no sense of time; it seemed as if they flew blindly forever. Presumably deeper into the mysterious floating cliffs, far beyond the reach of his friends and captain.
It was warmer in the cavernous blackness, though not so warm that his numbed limbs began to thaw. Rather he was aware of a dank heat all around, kept at bay only by the speed of their passage. Too frightened to cry out he sagged in the gripping talons allowing it to swing him about; he dangled like a rag doll from a delinquent’s fist.
Without warning he was released. Jacob was so surprised that he didn’t even cry out. His stomach lurched up through his body, limbs flailed for an instant and then he slapped down hard on his hip and side. The best he could manage was a faint groan. The creature’s flapping receded. Whether it had flown away or merely perched somewhere, watching over him with malevolent intent, Jacob had no idea. He strained his ears to their limit and faintly detected a regular murmur, as of a vast distant thing breathing in sleep. He could no longer tell if his eyes were open or closed unless he felt as his eyelids with panicky fingertips. He didn’t know if he should move or if stillness would be safer.
He made a decision and gingerly began to feel out the space around him. There was only the ground, a rough crumbly rock everywhere he could reach without moving about. He began to crawl, ever fearful of the precipice that his mind screamed was after the next fingerstep. Instead his hands began to describe a rising slope, which became vertical after just a few feet. Standing, he could feel the beginnings of a ledge above.
It was perhaps an unfortunate time for the continued lack of sight to take its toll upon his deprived mind. In the quiet dark he began to hallucinate wildly. Edged shadows and streamers of blinking lights surrounded him, pressing on and fleeing from him. They harried him; he ducked, flinched and quivered under their assault. Strange ghosts snuck upon him and vanished from the corner of his other eye.
Helpless with visions he flailed at the ledge before him, hoping to drag himself away from his imagined horrors. Something seized his hand, enclosing it in a moistly firm grip. It pulled; Jacob shrieked. He was dragged up the wall, hungry leathery hands or claws or tentacles or tongues wrapping around his arm shoulder chest, neck. Bodily he was hauled onto the ledge and into a close dank breathing embrace. Thinner creeping flesh gripped his head and tugged him forwards. Fully bound his face was tilted back, screaming mouth and all and a thing prised open his eyelids.
Horrid flurries of wet crawling licked and pinched at his eyeballs. Shaking, shuddering Jacob finally went black inside his mind. He slumped unconscious while the thing continued to drool slitheringly into his eyes.
Next Week: Part 6 – The Sweet Night Air