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Rattle Jik

Rattle Jik

By Michael D. Griffiths

The end of Rattle Jik’s black claw fiddled with the eye hole of a human skull. The colossal Emerald scaled dragon allowed just the tip of a satisfied smile to cross his scaly countenance. His idle state brought forth a recollection of his recent alliance not only to the Hobgoblins of Guillotine Arch, but also their staunch enemies the slavers to the north. Of course, both paid him tribute, and both would be betrayed. The only real question remained which of the forces would be the first to learn of their folly?

Lifting the small skull, he gazed into its decayed grin for five heartbeats before casting it over his shoulder.

“Ouch,” came from the distinctive and annoying mouth of his son Carver.

The tiny figure of his half Goblin son came into view. Lime colored scales covered the parts of Carver which his enchanted chainmail left exposed. His pointed ears arched from his head like the wings of a bat. His scrunched face held an expression Rattle Jik didn’t bother to read.

“Yes?” he breathed so heavy a wisp of green toxin leaked from his nostrils. “What is it you can’t handle yourself?”

“It’s that Sorceress at the slaver’s bridge.”

“The one with Devil’s blood in her veins?”

“Dat’s the one, some of the boys have reported seeing her heading this way.”

Carver was the captain of Rattle Jik’s primary servants and the closest thing he had to an army. The goblins called themselves the Gut Gnashers. The origin of their namesake could be older than even Rattle Jik, for the goblins were already calling themselves the Gut Gnashers before he took over the eastern Dells.

He always figured they called themselves the Gut Gnashers because it was as far up on their enemies they could reach.

“She is coming into my forest?”

“Yah oh hugest of all.”

“Stop with that one, it makes me sound fat.”

“Oh yeyah, most fierce of all creatures who draws breath.”

“Better. I assume she isn’t alone.”

“She has a dozen black armored mercs setting up camp for her. Minions of Hell all the way down to their flacid human-”

“Enough, they make camp within the Dells?”

“Maybe she wants to be fresh when she sees you. They look like they sat on a hill of lava ants in the middle of a wizards duel.”

“Hmm,” Rattle Jik ran the nails of one claw over his riches. “Your assessment may be closer than you realize, Carver. Speak with your sister Salas-Sea and tell her to allow the party passage through her lizard kin.”

“Half sister.”

Rattle Jik regarded him with one eye.

“I’m going, see you later master of the longest of teeth.”

He wasn’t sure he liked the last accolade either, but let it go. His mind moved to consider what would bring Lady Litha into a situation which would require her to spend a night on the cold ground. He remained uncertain, but there was one aspect of which he could stay certain.

She would be asking him to do her a favor.

“And here I was thinking I’d be betraying Guillotine Arch first.”

*         *         *

Lady Lista, as she liked to call herself, had more devil in her than most. Quite literally, and this would hold true in a cruder manner as well. Her last lover was his half human son whom she’d managed to get killed. If Rattle Jik hadn’t intervened to save his own child, he wondered why she would think he’d be willing to aid his dead son’s lover who had already found a new mate if what his spies told him proved true.

Lista rubbed her thumb against her fingers in a hopeless attempt to clean her hands. “No, it’s not the people who killed Rushmik. I already told you this.”

“So, you are saying my interest should be even lower than the zero interest I felt before?”

Anger flashed in her red eyes. “Zero interest? We have an alliance.”

 “Just because I have a loose alliance with you Hell lovers, does not mean I have to fly off every time any of you have a problem. Do you have any idea how many of you there are? My scales would never touch the ground.”

She gazed up at him. He supposed she wasn’t completely unattractive. Curved horns, almost like his. Red fiery hair with eyes to match. The type of figure humans prize.

“What if they push into your territory. Don’t you claim everything south of the bridge I control? If these goodlings take the bridge, do you think they’ll stop there?”

“Who leads them this time?”

“Some pure beauty, a girl calling herself Amethyst. They say she’s a virgin.”

“Virgin. Interesting.”

“Oh father, you never cease to disgust me.”

A new voice had entered the discussion, his half Lizard Kin daughter Salas-Sea. She rode her half-sister. A green scaled mare named, Enom. Both quadruped and biped eyed their father with ill-concealed malice.

“Really Jik? A horse,” Litha sighed over crossed arms.

Emon stomped her hoof and snarled a puff of toxic green through her flaring nostrils.

“Why are you here, Litha?” Salas-Sea asked. “Being overrun by escaped slaves again?”

“If there was any level of civilization in these unwashed lands, I wouldn’t be forced to deal with these barbarians. I’d be better off showing up with shells and beads. Some-”

“Girls. Enough. Perhaps this is a discussion best left for cooler heads. Come Lady Litha. I’ll assume a human form and we can…”

Rattle Jik responded to his daughter’s groans. “What? I just need to be at eye level in order to see what the next step to our response should be.”

“Do we have a devil spawn sibling yet?” Salas-Sea asked her sister.

Enom made a neigh which sounded more like losing her lunch and the sisters trotted off into toward where the sun slowly disappeared between the towering pines.

*         *         *

Rattle Jik remained in human form more to mate with this devil horned delight than listen to her strategy, but he did both. He considered eating her, but she’d brought wine.

“So, we’ll need some of your Gut-Gnashers. With most of the Dispater mercenaries slain, we require numbers to back up the elite guards which remain. Perhaps Carver can lead a group in to slit a few throats before we even arrive.”

“Excuse me, we?”

“Well yes, I thought this was part of the agreement we had. You know how rich this slave trade passing near your forest will make you? Not to mention your potential to have an increased food supply.”

“How powerful is this group that you require such assistance?” he asked while inspecting his nails. It always distracted him to see his talons so short.

“They killed my Giant.”

“Suntrun is dead?” How unexpected and yet delightful. Note to self, after I gain revenge for the Giants who live past Last Mountain, enquire with their king how he will be able to reward me for the favor.

“I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, but mostly humans you say?”

“Yes, led by the beautiful Sorceress Amethyst.” Litha leaned in closer exposing more of her charms. “They say she is the most beautiful woman in Oledan.”

“Really, how interesting.”

She only smiled.

Rattle Jik stood. “It appears I will need to speak with some of my brood. Have your men prepare to march. This shouldn’t take long.”

Virgin… is she. Most beautiful woman in the land.

“My lord,” Litha called after him. “Your clothes.”

“Bah, garments are for rodents. My body blesses all fortunate enough to witness its glory.”

The minions he encountered scurried from his path for they feared the smile spreading across his face far worse than any fit of anger.

*         *         *

He hated…tasks.

Anything which kept him away from lounging remained a degree below dreadful during the best of times. The world held two exceptions to Rattle Jik’s general philosophy on life and these were, mating and betrayal.

At least I’ll still be sleeping in my own forest tonight for the foolish two legs will need a day to travel what I can in an hour.

 Speaking of annoyances…

 Salas-Sea and Carver walked into his cove of twisted moss-covered trees which he used to prepare himself for battle. Carver bowed but Salas-Sea didn’t bother.

The former spoke. “Oh mightiest of all creatures, I have the Gut Gnashers armed and ready to march out after the Dispater Mercs. Oh ye of the most noxious breath, I have my most trusted man, Pitsoup, leading them.”

Rattle Jik allowed a single eye to stray from the chest he’d been searching to regard his skinny son. “You will be leading them to The Hidden bridge. Once there, you can leave your wormling in control of the main force while you pick a group of throat slitters and try to get the party started before those Hell loving humans can foul it up.”

“I was afraid youse was gonna say dat.” He looked up, “Your most efficient terror.”

Salas-Sea eyed her shorter brother with thinly veiled disgust. “And I father, what orders do you think I should be required to follow for you?”

The females were always more trouble.

“You will maintain the integrity of our home while we are away.”

“What an honor.”

Rattle Jik paused for a moment. “Has there been any new information regarding Scalefoot?”

“You mean since he became a living dead?” she asked.

“Has he perhaps tried to contact us?”

“Nope,” Carver laughed, “the small fry is still sucking them dry from what I hear.”

“Yes, seeing as how he follows the Demon Lord of the Dead now,” Salas-Sea began, “I’m not sure how we can ever trust my half hobbit brother no matter how much Carver liked having someone shorter than him around.”

“Tis a pity indeed. First Rushmik then Scalefoot. Sad to see one’s family fall into such peril.”

“Then why do you keep sending us into such dangers?” Salas-Sea demanded.

“One must do something to sharpen their wit and fang and those who fail to survive the gauntlet were already doomed from the start. Now leave me, I wish be alone before I follow these two-legged armies.”

*         *         *

The wind passing over his scales felt invigorating. He relished the feel and wondered why he didn’t do this more often. Then he allowed himself to crack a twenty-foot smile. He knew exactly why he didn’t do this more often because, for all its pleasure and glory, flying took a second seat to reclining, cheese coated brains, and bedding the females of oh so many species.

Such thoughts brought him back to the woman rumored to be leading this force of weal, Amethyst. He hoped he would get a taste of her beauty, and a few other things, before she was pushed off a cliff or hacked through the face or whatever the loathsome humans did to each other.

Yet none had eyes which compared to his. With luck he would spy her first, spare her while he killed all her allies, and then spirit her back to the Dells before Litha had a chance to ask more from him.

Yes, we’ll see who gets to stab the other in the back first, and since I am too tall for her to reach mine…

Rattle Jik recalled the battle plan was for Litha and her mercs to attack whenever the throat slitters were discovered. This battle was to begin at dawn and once the sun had risen enough for the enemy to be stunned by his might presence, Rattle Jik was to rush in and ensure their victory, as if there could have been any chance of failure once he became personally involved.

*         *         *

The first thing he noted was a large skirmish to the west which shouldn’t be taking place. He saw his regiment of Hobgoblins working with Carver’s elite Gut Gnashers, which probably meant Carver remained with them.

So the little useless rat must have never gotten around to slitting throats. Pity. He laughed, a pity for Litha, perhaps. Little can harm me up here even if they do not flee from the mere sight of my mighty glory.

Nine seconds later the rabble gathered around The Hidden Bridge came into view. Former slaves and peasants mixed with a riff raff of armor and weapons. At the sight of him, the majority fled, which was the signal for Litha to lead her Dispater Mercs and Carver’s Goblins into the fray from the south.

After a lazy spin he returned toward the battle from the north and saw the Humans and Goblins reaping death by axe and arrow among both the former slaves which fled from him and those which had the fortitude to put up a fight.

Litha reinforced their assault with her spells of ice and lightning. He saw her scarlet robe in the center of her Hell lovers. Drawing nearer, he noted she had problems. Spells and arrows hammered her troops and a large explosion of fire had struck the center of his goblin soldiers.

Looking down, Rattle Jik failed to find the cause and was about to breath life stealing poison down upon the vermin below when a bright jab of pain caught his attention. The damage was barely above a nuisance and proved more than worth it for it allowed him to spot its cause.

I see you now, child.

It has to be her, Amethyst, the one he’d heard so much about. Long waves of auburn hair framed heart shaped face with pink tear drop lips. She possessed a strange youthful grace which captivated him.

You should have stayed hidden little one, he thought. Now that I see you, I have little other use for this battle. With their hero and leader gone the others will lose hope. Whether Litha wins or loses will be of little concern to me.

Yes, the beauty had captivated him, and it became his first mistake.

*         *         *

It crashed into Rattle Jik like an avalanche of granite. The dragon tumbled twice through the air before it had seen what hit him. The creature appeared to be twice the size of an elephant and three times as thick. Claws raked him so hard, as he spun, blood was drawn despite the power of his emerald scales.

Spreading his wings wider, Rattle Jik regained control and his long neck speared backwards to take in the fierce beast which still clawed as his belly.

Some sort of goat headed flying lion, perhaps a Sphinx. Those ogre sized rack of curled horns atop its head explain why it feels like I’ve three broken ribs.

“Who dares?” Rattle Jik bellowed.

“I dare, one whose breath, as bad as it is, can’t compete with the foul soul resting in your evil chest. And I, Belzandar, intend to tear it out.”

The Sphinx drew back and charged into Rattle Jik’s injured side and the Dragon roared in pain.

Flapping his mighty wings, he snarled, “Enough of this!” and engulfed the Sphinx in a blast of his toxic breath. Any fear the goat headed fool was immune dissipated faster than his poisonous breath for Belzandar emerged from the other side of the dark green cloud with sores on his flesh and a series of wracking coughs.

His boasts proved absent, but his fight remained far from gone. It flew up at Rattle Jik and Belzandar slammed his tree sized horns into the center of his chest. At once the Sphinx’s claws went to work where his horns had damaged the dragon’s scales.

“I’ll take your heart,” Belzandar shouted between gasps.

“I’m not sure where these peasants got one such as you.” Rattle Jik lost his train of thought when one set of claws dug deep into his flesh between his scales. “Arrgg, may the Nine Curses of Hell own you.”

The combatants traded more blows and flew apart after rising higher into the air.

Rattle Jik gave Belzandar another blast of green death, but the Sphinx avoided most of it.

After spinning out of the cloud, Belzandar dove at Rattle Jik, but this time the Dragon proved himself ready and avoided the ram’s horns. However, a claw raked over one of the spots he already bled from.

Keeping in his howl, Rattle Jik instead roared, “I possess claws as well, worm of Weal.” His left, then right, talons found Belzandar as the Sphinx attempted to fly past Rattle Jik and with a louder roar, the Dragon used his claws to hold the Sphinx long enough to maul Belzandar’s face and head with his mighty fangs.

With a cry of agony, Belzandar broke away, but blood flowed from the beast in streams to shower the combatants below. The Sphinx growled through bloody lips and prepared for a final charge, but Rattle Jik didn’t give him the chance.

His lungs had refilled with enough poison for a third cloud. It hit the Sphinx in the face and Belzandar didn’t have the strength to make it through the cloud before his gigantic body went limp and plummeted toward the ragged battle below.

Circling, Rattle Jik watched it fall.

The battle still raged below, but he had lost his interest. Litha or Amethyst could win, it meant little to him. One of his wings had a painful tear and he knew it would be a long flight home in his injured state.

Calling down to the battle, he said, “I hope the girl wins, then I’ll never have to worry about Litha talking me into another disaster.”

Then, without so much as a look back, Rattle Jik flew south toward his forest.

*         *         *

He couldn’t be sure how long he moaned in his giant nest and complained over his woes with any slave brave enough to come near him. He didn’t help increase the numbers of his caregivers when he ate several off them.

The day had grown long when the shadow of mounted rider blocked the last rays of the setting sun.

Looking up from his bed of wounded misery, Rattle Jik took in his green scaled daughters.

“Salas-Sea,” he hissed, “What news do you bring me?”

“I have news, little of it good.”

Emon glared at him with her red eyes while her younger sister spoke.

“Go on.” Of course, it isn’t good. You wouldn’t tell me anything to cheer me up if someone offered you a chest full of magic wands.

“The Lady Litha is dead and the slaver’s bridge has fallen. Our allies run scattered and I heard word some of the few who remain blame you for leaving them mid battle.”

He waved such ideas away with a weary claw. “You said little of it good.”

“Carver used some spell, which he probably had to sell his soul for, but he has returned. Even if it was naked and bleeding…much as yourself. That is the end anything which could be considered ‘good’ news. I have more ill news to report. Without Lady Litha, I fear the followers of Hell may not honor our agreements.”

“Puh, I’m glad the witch is dead. And the girl?”

“Amethyst has claimed the bridge and freed the slaves. Rumor has it she intends to return them to her town which she now calls Bak Dannis.”

“What Uttman isn’t good enough for them anymore?”

“Count Uttman did sell them out to the slavers and start sacrificing the town’s folk to various Devils.”

“And they changed their name just because of that. How am I expected to keep this all straight?”

“I expect very little of you father.”

“Begone from my sight and don’t return until I’m… wait, on second thought send in my tailors. Perhaps I should design a new outfit during my wounded state.”

“Should I dare to ask why?”

“I was just thinking… when I feel a little better maybe I should visit this Bak Dannis of theirs and see how its changed. Perhaps I’ll accidentally bump into the virgin, so since I’d hate to scare her, I’ll disguise myself as a handsome knight, no, maybe a rugged ranger. Women like the outdoorsy type, right?”

Salas-Sea only stared.

Emon gave an angry neigh and left a horse pie near the head of his nest before trotting Salas-Sea and herself into the glowing sunset.

.

Detective Dak is in charge of the anti clone task force, he main problem…he’s dating one, Grab my cyberpunk novel… Right Here!

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