Monday, 12 August 2013


Mahaven took the first watch.  According to the Acts, somewhere around Act 3 the Elves had developed acute night vision, an ability to see body heat as a colour, and colours that the others races could not.  He sat and stared out into the night while Hamfries and Mojo made themselves as comfortable as they could on the rocky ground and tried to go to sleep.  Above the stars shone brightly in constellations that the original Elves had spoken of as though they were friends, but the Schattenalfen had lived underground for more than six Acts now, and to him they were simply bright lights in the sky.  There were patterns, he would admit that, but those patterns were meaningless to him.  Midst them, like a pair of sightless eyes, two moons hung in the sky.  Other races claimed that magic powers derived from the moon, but again, the Schattenalfen had lived underground and away from the light of the moon for generations and they still threw up the odd magician.  They also had latent background powers, a residuum of what the ancient Elves could do, but still useful now and then.  His fingers twitched slightly and his whole body tingled for a moment.  Then his spear, laid on the ground ten feet away slithered quietly across the rock to his feet.
Hamfries turned over, possibly disturbed by the faint noise of the spear, but then he settled down again.  Mojo was breathing heavily now, either meditating or asleep, and Bulrug was snoring again.  Mahaven concentrated on his own breathing for a moment and waited while the rising irritation subsided.  Schattenalfen lived solitary lives even within their sporadic communities and travelling with companions for so long now was getting heavily on Mahaven’s nerves.
Nothing disturbed his watch, and he was even slightly disappointed when Mojo woke some hours later and took over from him.
Mojo had no heat-vision, or particularly good night-vision, or even the highly-adapted sense of smell that the Gnolls had (at least, those that survived the near-genocide of Act 10).  He looked out into the night hopefully, wishing that he didn’t feel like the night was looking back.
It was nearly time to change watches when the first Trabbit hopped close enough for him to spot the movement in the night.  At first it was just a hyperactive shadow, and Mojo squinted out into the night trying to pinpoint what had moved.  Then he glanced around several times, keeping track of the shadow but looking for other movements, from things that might have set a diversion.  Only when he was satisfied that the shadow was the only thing that was moving did he stir up the fire a little and lay the end of a un-used firewood branch into the newly glowing embers.  When the shadow next jumped he seized the stick and thrust it at it.
The Trabbit, as revealed by the flames chewing around the end of the stick, was smoky in colour and had fur that puffed out around it like a dandelion clock.  Four feet on long spindly legs clawed at the ground, chewing up mud and soil but gripping firmly to rock.  Two eyes, slightly too far apart for good binocular vision, were wetly huge in its head, and its body was a plump but short attachment.  Trabbits looked at though they were entirely heads on legs when you first saw them.
“Trabbit!  Wake!  Wake!” cried Mojo thrusting the burning stick at it.  The Trabbit hissed, a mouth opening in the ball of fluff that was dark-red inside and lined with small, triangular teeth.  It recoiled from the fire, but then another one appeared beside it.  “Trabbit!” yelled Mojo again.
Mahaven sat up almost immediately, and picked his spear up.  Bulrug remained asleep, and Hamfries rolled over and muttered something that Mojo couldn’t clearly hear.
“Hamfries!” yelled Mojo, jabbing at the Trabbit again.  He didn’t want to wake Bulrug at the moment, just in case he couldn’t remember what side he was supposed to be on.
There was a sudden squeak, and Mahaven was crouching next to Mojo.  Mojo started, sure that he’d never seen Mahaven move, and then Mahaven pulled his spear back and revealed a Trabbit impaled on it.  Its huge eyes glistened for a moment, then glazed over.  Mahaven reached down and pulled the Trabbit to the end of the spear where it started to droop off, then he poked it into the fire.  For a moment the fire smoked as though it was going out, and then the Trabbit caught fire.  In one quick movement Mahaven launched it into the darkness in the general direction that Mojo was flailing with his stick, and the burning Trabbit described a trajectory like a comet.  It landed with a small thump and light flared up around it.  A nest of Trabbits was revealed, scattering away from their burning comrade, but some on them had been too close and had also caught light.  As they ran they set up an eerie ululating cry of pain, and then they started colliding with other Trabbits.  Steadily light from the burning Trabbits grew and the tableau beyond the campsite became easier to see.  Mojo watched it, his mouth hanging open in shock; Mahaven was wearing a slightly cruel smile instead.
“What the hell?” asked Mojo, closing his mouth with an effort and looking at Mojo.
“You should do that trick for weddings,” said a gruff voice behind them, and they both turned to see that Bulrug was awake.  He shrugged.  “It’d go down a treat,” he said.  “I’m going back to sleep.”

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