"Hello?" he called. He used his arms to try to work off the blindfold that he could feel on his face.
"Ah yes, he awakens." The voice sounded weak and old. "Such timely coming you have made." The hiss of the voice made it somewhat ominous.
Brandwil tried to recall how he had come to be here. He had been out at the Jensen's homestead. There had been three children dead with no signs of what had caused their demise. The only thing Mrs. Jensen had been able to tell him was that the children had spoken of a strange nest they had found the night before. Despite the level of her grief, Brandwil had been able to get from the distraught mother the directions the children had spoken of before they went to bed.
It was an odd situation. All three children looked as if they were small dried husks, much like the corn dolls his mother used to make. He had found no outward cause of death other than that each had two fang marks at their ankle.
Brandwil, as Sheriff of Coswell, had gathered up some men to go check out this nest. If there were creatures about causing the death of children, then they needed to be removed. They had headed into the hills above the Jensen farm the next morning.
"Who are you?" he called, as he worked through the haze of his pounding head to figure out what was going on. "Why am I being held?"
"So many questions..." There was a dry hacking cough. The rhythmical tapping and creaking of wood continued at the same pace. "I am Meisha, the old mother. You are being held because you attacked the children."
Brandwil shook his head trying to get the blindfold free. He did not remember attacking children? He sought to find the memory of what had occurred. They had climbed the mountain above the farm. The children's movements had not been hard to follow in the early spring thaw. . The tracker soon found the cave that they were looking for among the rocks and scrub brush.
He suddenly remembered and his heart began to race. They had woven their way deep into the caves. There had been five of them, including Brandwil. They had stepped into a larger room within the caves, easily big enough for a small garrison to hide within. The first thing that they had noticed was that the walls seemed alive. It was then they had realized their danger. The walls had been covered in snakes.
Brandwil pulled at the chains in panic. There had seemed to be thousands of them and in every size, shape, and color he could imagine. Brandwil and his men had turned to flee but the entrance they had come through had filled with the writhing bodies. They had tried to fight their way out. He remembered that. They had sought to gain passage back through the tunnel they had entered. Their torches had seemed the only thing keeping the snakes at bay.
Johan fell first. A snake had lunged from above and bit him on the neck. Danen had been swallowed whole by the biggest one. The lunge had come from such a distance that Brandwil had not thought it possible. He did not remember falling himself, and snakes could not chain one to a wall, so where was he?
"Attacked the children?" he managed to force sound to his terrified throat. "You mean the snakes?"
"Yes, the children. They had only come together to winter in warmth. You come into our home unbidden with swords and fire." The hacking cough sounded again. The rhythmic tapping was driving him crazy.
"They killed three human children the prior day." Brandwil said softly. "We only came to see what could do such a thing."
"Human children, such curious things. They came when they were not bidden as well. Punished they were for their rudeness." The old mother's voice echoed in the chamber.
Brandwil had no idea how to respond. His mind raced for away out. "Why am I being held?"
There was a dry, throaty laugh. "The new mother is not ready to take her mate yet."
That made no sense to Brandwil. He wished his head would quit hurting. "Her mate?" he asked. "What does that have to do with me?"
Again there was a dry chuckle. "Such simple minds of mortal men." The tapping sped up just a bit. "You be the mate she chooses."
Brandwil finally managed to work the blindfold free. The light in the cavern was dim but what he saw made anything he had imagined pale in comparison. There, sitting in a rocking chair was an old woman as he thought. Only the top half of her was a woman, the rest of her was a snake. He pulled with desperation at the binds on the wall.
He felt them give slightly. The sheriff glanced at the woman who was still rocking back and forth. She did not seem to notice. He began to carefully work the old metal from the stone, speaking as he did so to hide his actions. "Is the new mother a snake as beautiful as the old mother?"
"Do not lie to me, mortal. I can hear your heart beat. I can smell your fear." The woman smiled as she rocked. "But yes, she is a beautiful child. I am most proud of her."
Brandwil had no intentions of being a snake's mate. He was fairly sure that it would not end well for him no matter how he looked at it. He had to escape before this new mother returned. "Will I become a snake?" he asked, fearful of the answer.
"No, you will feed the children when they come. They will feast on your blood and bones before they set out in the world. Your blood is strong, perhaps we will find a male among them this time." The woman's words confirmed his fears.
Brandwil managed to pull one of the manacles free from the wall. The old woman still did not seem to notice, perhaps she was blind. "It must be an honor to be chosen. I do not feel worthy." He muttered working at the other encasement. Fortunately for him, the metal was old and he felt this one begin to give at a bend. He began to work the bend back and forth.
"It is a better fate than dinner for the children," she pointed out.
"But you said I would be dinner for the newborn one day anyway," he pointed out.
"Yes, but many days of pleasure before them. Sweet is the poison of a new mother." The woman's rocking began to slow. "What are you doing?"
Brandwil paused in his movements. "Trying to get more comfortable, old woman. The floor is not the usual comforts of a man."
He was relieved when the chair began to move again. "Yes, well we have no comforts for a mortal man here." The woman muttered.
Brandwil got his second had free. The first manacle was attached to a spike that had been driven into the wall. It was the only weapon he had. He made a step towards the woman with each tap of the chair. When he was close enough, she suddenly sensed her danger, her nostrils widening as she sat up straight. It was too late; Brandwil drove the spike into her chest with all his might. Her sounding screech echoed off the cavern walls.
Answering snakes sent the cave into an echoing long hiss of anger. He grabbed the lone torch above the woman's head and headed out. It was easy to follow as somehow he had been pulled into the room so his boots had left scuffs in many places. Brandwil ran for his life. He could hear the movements, the hisses, and smell the excrement of the many snakes. It drove him through the cavern. Finally, he emerged from the small opening they had first entered the day before.
Brandwil ran for his horse and vaulted into the saddle. He turned the horse east and kicked it forward. Despite the knowledge that a horse could outrun a snake, he could not remove the image of the large one that had eaten Danen whole. Every bush, every strange shape rock became a snake. Brandwil ran the horse till it collapsed beneath him, unable to go farther.
Position Open for Sheriff
The town of Coswell has an
open calling for Sheriff.
Last Sheriff disappeared and
is believed to have fled his post.