Sunday, February 6, 2011

Call of Cathulhu, Part 4 of an Origin Story

Yay! Part 4 and it's actually the conclusion! It turned a little bit into one of those incredibly long, incredibly annoying jokes where the humor lies in the length of the telling rather than in the strength of the punchline. If you don't get it now, read on, and I apologize for the last line in advance. Consider this story a little bit of creative experimentation. And after today, it's over! Win-win.

They took council for a time, the Mother Cheetah and the king and queen of the mice. She wanted to take them back with her to her husband, the lion father Barnible to hatch a plan which she hoped could not fail. The king Josev cast that thought out immediately. "It is one thing to invite us to entreaty with your pride, but it is another thing entirely to ask we stride into your territory trusting to all of your kind. Mother Cheetah, you alone have proven yourself, and you alone we will work with to meet our mutual goal."

She accepted their demand, although it meant her lord and her family would go countless time longer without knowing how she fared. It was a sacrifice with which she could not deny the necessity. Queen Meredev assumed the role of matriarch while the king mounted the great cat's back to speed them away on their long journey to the doors of the realm of all-that-isn't. They traveled for days over the earth from forest to jungle to prairie and finally to the great desert at the heart of the world. Mother Cheetah paused to rest as they approached the final oasis before the last leg of their journey. The would drink deep from the waters of the oasis, rest, and the next morning confront the great beast at the threshold of her realm.

"I've carried you across the world King Josev, and yet you stay your tongue ever even on the eve of our exploit. My life now rests in your hands, cunning king. I pray you have conjured a spell with which you will bewitch the great beast to give herself up and relinquish her tyranny over our eternal lives."

The king thought on this as Mother Cheetah had grown accustom to during the course of their long journey. At length, he spoke. "The great beast knows all of those who once lived, but knows nothing of all those who still draw breath. This is her weakness, and I aim to pick at it, gnaw at it until she most address the realities of all-that-is. When she strikes at me, you will be there waiting to strike back."

She was speechless. How could one as her, indeed any being living or in death, make hope in battle against such a creature as the beast? Is this not what the lord Barnible warned against so long ago at the great council? What foolishness had she attached herself to in this small lordling who rules over a horde of the small and insignificant? What could he mean to have her throw herself against the greatest matriarch all alone against the power of death itself? The tiny king would talk only to bring her death about as a result. It was revenge, then, that motivated Josev and his people. To devour her was not enough, no she must have her hopes raised for victory only to enter the beast's realm in the end. It was a foul thing that the mouse king had done. She could no longer return to her own lord in disgrace. Josev and his people have maneuvered her into an impossible position. If she were to meet her doom in the morning, she would do it with her head up, a true representative of her pride, and do right by her husband her children.

Morning came soon enough, and as she awoke, Josev sat on his hindlegs on the edge of the small pond that made up the water of the oasis. He was in deep though, and Mother Cheetah knew then that she would not be alone in embracing her fate this day. She had carried Josev across the earth because it was a journey he could not have made within his lifetime without her. If hers was a mission of certain doom, than his was as well. It did little to soften the harshness of the day's truth.

For the final time, Josev grabbed at her fur with paws almost too small for her to perceive and climbed onto the scruff of her neck. She was in no hurry this day to meet her end, so after a journey fueled with urgency every wake hour, she now took a leisurely pace to the gates of the underworld. Even with the reprieve granted by the oasis, the path through the desert that all living creatures must eventually take was harrowing. Regardless, the entire journey saw both cat and mouse with head held high proving to the world the true nature of their nobility.

The hungry mouth of the gates gaped open as they approached, and although the winds were severe and the sand wiped in their faces, utter silence greeted them. They felt the eyes of the beast all around them and knew with a certainty that they approached the realm of their foe and the time for retreat had already passed them. They stood then, in the entrance way of the ruler of all-that-isn't. Instantly her gaze focused on them and a coldness overcame them that not even the desert heat could penetrate.

"Ah, ever the lords and ladies of the supposed living kingdoms come begging to join my realm. With each breath you take you pay homage to your ultimate destination as my servants. It is a tradition to hear the last words of rulers such as you before you enter as peasants with bowed heads. Speak, for the moment is fleeting and my attention is ever needed elsewhere."

Mother Cheetah then spoke. "I will speak- "

"Allow me, madame." Josev interrupted. Her final words complete. She looked at him on her back with disdain. She was the mightier of the two of them, and it was her right to speak first. He had ruined the moment which would now be lost for forever. Feh! To think that a mouse, even a king of his kind, could speak for her in her last breath before bowing to the beast's rule.

"My final words are thus," continued Josev. "Let it forever be known and recognized by all the lords and ladies great and small of the world of the living that the great ruler of all-that-isn't was given an opportunity for greater power but refused it in favor of gaining only two more slaves for her infinite kingdom. Both the beast and Mother Cheetah were stunned into silence. Had Josev been hiding a means for infinite power, a power rivaling that of the beast, all this time from her? Was there some trick he had held back that could in fact lead to their salvation?

"Speak of this power quickly as even now I must hurry away to address the needs of my kingdom and maintain my loving grasp of all I can see." Mother Cheetah quickly saw that the first breach was made in her armor. She realized that Josev had so quickly realized the one piece of bait all those with great power would blindly grasp at - the opportunity to steal more power.

"I will not keep you long, my queen for I know your attention is precious," Josev spoke towards the frigid void in the desert. "In my journeys, and amongst my people I have learned the most valuable technique for ruling over a kingdom. Even now you speak of turning your attention away even with the most unusual sight of two living rulers willingly approaching your kingdom. This must pain you in ways the we breathing things cannot understand."

"Go on, insignificant one. You risk rising the ire of all-that-isn't, so treat lightly." The beast's words echoed all around them, and Mother Cheetah, while still accepting her fate, held a small victory in her heart that they had survived at least to this point. She was stuck wondering how the beast could be curious of anything with all the power and knowledge she held.

"As it pleases you, mighty queen. I'm afraid that, even with the terrible power you possess, you are still but one creature, great and horrible as you may be. Even with your infinite eyes your gaze is still limited to that which is near. You are inferior in this way compared to, say, my own kingdom and sovereignty." Mother Cheetah began suspecting Josev's strategy. His assumption had endangered both of their lives, and she prayed it would deliver them for their inevitable fate.

"You, inferior as you are, presume to have advantage over me? How can this be? How can such a tiny one watch over his entire kingdom with your impossibly meager few eyes? What of your realm gives you such power?" He had her. Cheetah knew now that Josev's gamble would pay, and they yet had a chance for survival, if not outright victory of their quest. The beast held strong skills in observation than other creature, dead or living, in the whole history of the earth. Her one true weakness was her lack of understanding of all that lives in favor of her deep knowledge of all that had lived. At last it was clear, they were a mystery to the beast. They were the unknown, and the beast feared what little she still could not know.

"Small we may be, but we are of one mind spread over the greater population of my people. We are small, but numerous, and there is no part of the Earth that our kingdom does not touch."

"You would propose I break myself into creatures infinite such as your people yet small and unnoticed? This is no way to rule over the dead and un-living things of the Earth and my realm. You offer insult where I ask for knowledge unknown to me. You are truly a vile creature, little king." Had he pushed too far? Would the vacuum of her realm increase where they could not refuse but enter and forever be bound to her? The time for formalities had passed, and Mother Cheetah spoke.

"Great all-mother, ruler of the underworld, we beg your forgiveness and offer you truth. Though the mouse is too bold, I have been sent to temper him and bring the true gift of our insight. I have been among the people of the mice kingdom for some time, and know much of their ways. I propose an amendment to the king's solution. My pride would offer our form for you to emulate and spread. We are mighty creatures who stride the earth and fear no other creature, yet there are drawbacks. My people are too large and dangerous as a massive, single pride. We consumer prey too quickly and cause drought and hunger and all the suffering it brings while we lose father, mother, sibling, and child to return to a suitable population. I propose you break yourself into smaller prides or smaller creatures. Either way, your wrath will be known far and wide, and you will have the great pride at tutor to your entering the land of the living. Your eyes will be everywhere at once, and yet you will maintain your power over all."

She had sprung with her jaw and the weakness scratched out by Josev and a realization of the king mouse's cunning dawned on her. It would not be through strength of bite but rather power of cunning and a wicked tongue that she would strike at the beast. There was no response from the void, but in a moment there was blinding light, and the desert melted away. She was back with the pride, and she had a sense that much time had passed. She was thick with child, though she knew not how it would be possible. Barnible lay dying in the center of her people with his four other wives arranged around him. She knew they were all preparing for birth as well.

In a single moment, all five Mothers of her people produced a litter of kittens more numerous, and yet appearing more sickly and small a thing than any they had given birth to previously. The mewing of the newborn swarm was instant and deafening, and the other children of the pride looked upon them with confusion and not the least bit of horror at was she alone had wrought with her pact with the mouse king. They hungrily supped upon the milk of their mothers and almost just as quickly were off in all directions, litter mingling with litter. The small things were welcomed in by the tribes of men for they mistook them for rebellious creatures of the great pride. Many were killed as they remained the size of mere kittens in the ensuing years, and yet many lived and spread to the corners of the earth, following the paths and expansions made by the many human tribes.

And so, the realm of the un-living was broken, in a way. Still creatures died, but there was a kind of freedom in death. The underworld was left to be made of it as was needed by the different clans and tribes of the earth. The beast was broken over countless vessels and was welcomed into many a home of man. A faint echo of the vast consciousness pervades through all the vessels across the world, yet the focus is lost. The king Josev's risk had paid off, and the beast had ruined herself by her own hand. There is still danger of too many of its kind living within proximity of each other. Reality and sanity seem to break when a large gathering, perhaps more than 4 or 5 of the creatures live together in one hold. Their companions, those not of the beast appear to to fall under the beast's spell and work fervently to acquire as many of the cats as possible to rebuild the great mother to one vast being.

But so far no one has succeeded, because there are laws against that kind of thing!

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