The Threat of Valleor

The Threat of Valleor

A tale of Bethdish

By Dan L. Hollifield

--Part 3--

Year 6740


Toluse Pass, Thallistor Mountians

In the cool morning hours between dawn and full daylight the monster stirred restlessly. Whatever fitful dreams disturbed this mountain of frightening flesh also disturbed me- If only for the reason that the beast was between myself and freedom! The thing had followed me into these rocks last night as I was trying to hide from it. I dropped my pack on the way in. Somehow at the time, the advantage that I gained in my climbing ability seemed to out-way the usefulness of the pack. The Lizard-from-Hell stepped on it as he was stomping himself out a nest for the night. I heard the crunch of my blaster and communicator as they were squashed by the weight of this sleepy carnivore. All I had left was the sword and shield on my back and the stuff hanging off of my belt. My selky, the closest thing to a horse on this planet, had been eaten by the wildlife ages ago, or so it seemed. I had been trying to make it to the nearest settlement ever since.

"Guiles Thornby," I whispered to myself. "You are never going to live long enough to retire. What did your dear old Dad tell you about taking shortcuts?" I don't know! I thought to myself, I never listened!

So what are my options now? Hide? That's useless, the thing already has my scent- He can trace me to any hole I try to hide in. Sneak away? It can still trace my scent wherever I run to- Plus, it can cover more ground with a single stride than I can in ten! It can catch me easily before I could get very far. Stand and fight? Emotionally satisfying, but not much of a survivability factor in that one. There's just something about joining in single combat with Godzilla Junior here that doesn't appeal to me. Especially when I'm armed with nothing more than a three foot broadsword and a small metal shield. Why didn't I have my gun on my belt? Part of the disguise to pass myself off as a native. Part of my job, to attract as little attention to myself as possible.

The ironwear is good, I picked it up for my Boss. He sends me out for stuff like it all the time. But so what if it is good? I don't have the nerve or the skill to stand up to twelve hundred and fifty pounds of the fiercest and most successful carnivore on this planet. After two days of playing hide and seek with this fellow's smaller cousins, I was more than a little tired. Having had to sleep in trees a couple of nights hadn't helped my disposition any. As I stood there and speculated my chances, the monster's stomach began to rumble. That was certainly something to reassure a body, don't you think? Right about then I began to suspect that today was just not going to be my day. How did I come to be trapped in this Dongeonmaster's nightmare?

I think that I need to find another job.

I'm supposed to find things that my boss wants for his Museum. It could be anything, anywhere, any time. I never know if the next job is going to be my last. It could be worse though, there is one guy who's only job is to test some type of failsafe circuit in the boss' medical equipment. The guy has to get killed over and over again to see if the boss can bring him back to life with some machine. I don't like the sound of that at all. Glad it's not me.

What I do is locate lost or interesting articles. What I do best is to survive in these awkward situations that the Collector manages to get me into. To give him his due, he does get out into the field a bit. He's an archaeologist. Which means that any alien ruin on any alien planet is like a magnet for him. He ships out for ten years at a time, or longer. Stays at dig sites in some places that would have been too rough to have built a prison on. He faces primitive natives and wildlife that would frighten Godzilla Junior out there, all without batting an eyelash. Better him than me, I always say. But I do seem to get more that my share of the dirty jobs. This wasn't the first time that I'd been put on the menu of something too ugly to put a name to. I fervently hoped, if you know what I mean, that it would not be the last time! I've found that thinking about home at a time like this seems to relieve a little of the stress of the situation. Home, my friends there, things like that filled my mind as I waited for my chance to get away. My friends, my boss, what I was gonna do when I got my hands around his neck... Thoughts like these tended to relax me rather well.

I can dream, can't I?

I'd had many jobs along the way, of course- Thief, Conman, Soldier when I had to, but nothing had quite prepared me to attack and subdue a twenty-four foot tall, meat-eating lizard. I mean, it's not the sort of thing that I run into around the towns and villages that I frequent. I wish that I were in any one of them right now, I'll tell you.

The monster lizard stirred in the thin mists of morning, which came late here in this deep mountain valley. Steam from off of the nearby river thickened the dewy fog twirling wrath-like around the trees surrounding the small clearing. The lizard rose to it's feet and sniffed the morning breeze, it's nostrils flaring like radar as it's tiny brain tried to recall what scent that had brought it to these rocks. I stiffened as the beast turned to stare in my direction. It was looking at a spot about four feet to my left and a bit further down the hill that I crouched upon, but it was still too close for comfort. I gripped the sword that I had pulled as I had sat daydreaming and clutched more firmly the ridiculously tiny shield that I was stuck with. I could see the remains of my pack underneath the shadow of the carnivore, it's jaws slathering as hunger fueled it's dim memories of last evening's chase. I shivered uncontrollably for a moment, then jerked to sudden stillness as the lizard took two tottering steps in my direction. It had covered almost half of the distance between us with those two strides. It's great head began questing from side to side for a trace of my scent. It's three-inch teeth were fairly awash as the creature's huge mouth watered in anticipation of it's expected meal. Meanwhile, the expected meal in question- me, cowered uncooperatively in a none too deep crag halfway up a not-tall-enough cliff.

I hoped that I'd give it indigestion.

The monster roared it's frustration at the sky, nearly deafening me in the process. I thought that I heard voices in the distance as the echoes bounced off of the rocks and trees around the clearing. Then it roared again and took another step. One more step and it's head would be beside me in the brush that clung to the cliffs. Reflexively, I flinched- and it zeroed in on me and readied itself for the last step, opening it's mouth to roar in triumph.

I was doomed.

Suddenly, from behind and above me, a gout of liquid fire splashed down and took the creature straight in the mouth! The burning fluid splashed down it's neck and chest, flaming brightly as it stuck to the lizard's skin. Loud concussions sounded on the ground at the monster's feet. Someone up there had a flame-thrower and some grenades, more in the line of what I had been wishing for in order to feel safer in challenging the reptile.

The giant lizard turned and ran, crashing into trees as it fled searching for something to stop the pain. Whoever they were, they had just saved my life. Now all I had to worry about was whether or not they were slave-traders or cannibals!

With a heartfelt sigh, I sheathed the sword, hung the shield on my back, and began to climb up to meet my saviors. I could only hope that the cure wouldn't turn out to be worse than the disease.

Victim of Darkness

Lake Tua, Kingdom of Ellor

Her sharp parting words to him still hung low in the air, fluttering around herr head like the turmoil of her own thoughts. Distractedly, she made her way home on a path that twisted and turned, oddly different from the same road during daylight. Dully, through a murmur of angry thoughts, she realized that she was much farther from home than she should have been. Through the thinning trees on her left she could see the blue-black lake which should have been on her other side. Furious with herself, she turned around to retrace her steps.

"How." she asked herself, "could I have taken the wrong fork? I've been walking back and forth on this road every day of my life and I've never gotten lost before."

As she began to walk back the way she'd come, she felt eyes upon her back- although she could see no one. She paused to look around and noticed that the frogs and crickets that had earlier been making so much noise had gone suddenly silent. She stopped walking, as if against her will, and stood frozen with fear as an apparition floated toward her. From out of the unnatural silence came an unfamiliar, shapeless cloud of black smoke. It came from out of the shadows of the nearby trees, floating toward her. Two blazing red eyes looked down upon her as if from a great height. She tried to scream but no sound came. She felt as if she were in a dream, a nightmare from which she couldn't wake up. Chaotic thoughts, shocked beyond the concept of survival ripped through her mind. The eyes seemed to paralyze all thought of flight. They burned into her mind, blinding her will and leaving her defenseless as it came toward her. It came closer, covering the distance between them with steps that hardly seemed to touch the ground. It stood towering over her like a cliff of black glass, ready to shatter and cut her to ribbons. Instead of the avalanche that she expected, the cloud reached out and gently, almost lovingly, it struck. One blow to the back of her head and she crumpled like a rag doll -like an empty scarecrow- at it's feet. Silence surrounded them, muffling all movement. It knelt and touched her gently, lovingly, and they vanished like a soap bubble. When the grove of trees was empty, the normal sounds of the night returned and filled the grove. As suddenly as an explosion, the artificial silence caved in, vanished- While it seemed as if the frightened animals were trying to overcome their fear with the sheer volume of noise.

To be continued!

Click here to go directly to part 4.

Copyright 1997 by Dan L. Hollifield

Author's Note:

Bethdish is a world circling a star, called Antuth by the natives (who named the star after the chief deity in their pantheon), presently some 65 lightyears from Earth. Rumor has it that the entire solar system had earlier been located in the Andromeda Galaxy, but was moved by some mysterious force to its new location in our own Milky Way Galaxy. The surviving written history of Bethdish covers some 12,000 years, (with the afore-mentioned displacement to the Milky Way occuring in their year 6055 -- circa 3140 AD, Terran Calendar) but the records of the Immortals reportedly go back roughly a billion years and relate the rise and fall of several civilized eras of non-immortal natives before the present recorded history begins.

The Immortals claim to have been directly created by the Gods of Bethdish, while the diverse non-immortal species are said to have evolved naturally. The several alien colonies now present are, of course, immigrants. One Xenoarcheologist of note, Professor Eustas Gray of the Emperor Norton University of San Francisco, has published several monographs on the subject of excavations on Bethdish that purport to uphold the Immortal's beliefs. Other experts in the field dispute his findings, but all the evidence is not yet in.

Further records of the history of Bethdish are forthcoming from this Author, while previous excerpts are available in your local information network.

Dan Hollifield (I'm Aphelion's Editor, by the way) was born in 1957 at almost the same minute that Sputnik II was launched. This seems to have warped his point of view in the fact that he has always been rather a nut on the subject of spaceflight. He lives in Athens, Ga. USA. More biographical info can be found at The Mare Inebrium website- if you need that sort of thing.

If you like this story and you wish to tell me so you can e-mail me by clicking here. And thanks for visiting Aphelion!

Aphelion Letter Column A place for your opinions.

Return to the Aphelion main page.