Arcanum 1780: A New World
A Tale of the Twisted - Songs of the Forest
A Tale of the Twisted – Songs of the Forest
I was hungry and so I galloped through the forest to find food. My six legs carried me so well through the woods that I might as well have been strolling, and my galloping-stroll allowed me to appreciate the music of the forest. I could vaguely remember when the forest was only green. Now it was so many colours, colours I didn’t have names for. Some nights also made me remember that the forest was quiet once too.
Now it was a symphony. A giant beautiful symphony of strings of the wind through branches, woodwinds of the delicious birds in said branches, the low rolling snares of streams of water, and the brass of lesser animals fleeing my hunger. The swirl of color and sound blotted the memories of life before this, and I was glad to be rid of grayer quieter times of… what did I do before this paradise anyway?
As I rushed through the kaleidoscope of colors and music, I began to notice a change in the symphony. In fact, the symphony had suddenly sprouted some out of tune horns and off-tempo tympani thumps that vexed my taste for aesthetics more than it piqued my curiosity. I changed my course and rushed to make this mangling of the music closer to rebuke these incompetent players.
My feet brought the travesty to light within the minute and I stared at the incompetents ruining my music.
In this clearing, I encountered twelve of them huddled around fire. I felt like I should have recognized them, but the colors that they projected and the blarting horns they made with their mouths did nothing but remind me how unmusical and hideous they were. They carried sticks that were too straight and wore pelts that looked like no natural creature. I felt my mandibles click in disgust and the fur on my back stand up at the sight of these unnatural things. One of them honked out a string of trumpet blarts from its hairy mouth and raised one of the too-straight sticks at me. I roared my contempt at these tone-deaf vermin as light appeared at the end of the stick and, with a sound like someone smashing the keys to a piano, pain began in my fourth forearm.
I swiped at the closest of them with my clawed front limbs and latched onto its face with the webbing of my clawed hand. Its tuneless horn couldn’t sound through the palm of my hand and its teeth didn’t even dig through the flesh of any of the seven fingers that pulled its head to my waiting mandibles. I knew I should have waited to eat but I was famished and had never tasted these off-key horns before. And the consequences of my impatience came immediately with more piano crashes, lights and pain as more too-straight sticks hit me with their bearers blurting amongst each other.
No sooner had I swallowed it whole did I suddenly have more of them on me like flies. I flicked out with four of my limbs and heard more of their abhorrent music blare in response to me breaking some of their bones. One of them thought it was clever by climbing onto my back and jabbing something sharp into my shoulders. It didn’t count on me being able to bend backwards to him, snaring its upper body in my maw and feasting again. The others lost their nerve and started running, hooting into night to flee from the sight of this beautiful being of music before them. And I was still hungry enough to give chase.
I chased them until the reprise of the crickets began and got all but three of them. Just as I caught one more and silenced its broken tuba of a voice did I see a real fight rear into view. A gray hairless bear, as tall as I was, reared into view with the body of one of the ugly horns in their paws. The thing looked at me and growled a low angry roll of a bass drum as it dropped the body to come at me.
I didn’t want to fight this player in the forest’s symphony, but some of the players don’t seem to want to stay in the orchestra it seemed. The naked bear swiped its paw at me and broke another one of my forearms. I heard my own violin skirl of a scream as the pain was more than even the too-straight sticks of the ugly horns, and charged into the naked bear, pummeling and raking it with my good limbs and snapping at its thick flesh with my mandibles.
The bear fought well and its swipes and bites were almost as damaging as its first, but I was faster and more nimble than it thought I would be. My claws scraped off clay that might have been its skin and all that I got from it was another long roll on a bass drum from its mouth. It tore out tufts of hair from my back and broke another one of my arms, making me realize that I had to kill this errant performer soon before it killed me.
I leaped into it with my weight and buried my clawed fingers into its eyes, eliciting a cymbal crash along with its usual bass drum roll from it that told me that I had seriously hurt it. It shoved me off and buried its ruined face into its paws. I leaped into it again and this time buried my whole fist into its eyes, his skull splitting to accommodate my segmented hand and allowing my claws to dip far into his brains. It let out a shuddering gasp in its spasm and fell onto its side, its last notes played out in its fight.
I let the excitement of the fight drain out of me and began to feel the pain. The ugly horns didn’t hurt as much as the naked bear but they hit me in more places, and those places were starting to hurt more. Next ugly horn I saw was going to be a snack to make up for this, I thought to myself.
I clicked my mandibles as I decided that it was time to enjoy the spoils of my fight. The damn bear was not appetizing. It probably wasn’t even edible in the first place. The ugly horn on the other hand…
The ugly horn hadn’t crawled far. The bear broke both of its legs, yet that wasn’t dampening its desire to survive. Admirable, yet futile. It heard me skitter on only three of my six limbs to its position and it turned over to stab me with a knife. Its knife embedded itself into the carapace of my chest and did nothing more than irritate me. I used one of my damaged limbs to break one of its arms and its cry of agony was sharper than any other ugly horn’s cries so far. In fact, it didn’t sound like a horn this time. This time it sounded familiar and the I understood the noises it tried to make for this moment in time. “No! No! Stop! Lord God, help! Don’t let me be eaten by this demon!”
Demon? I’m no demon. I’m a… I’m…
Its noises became horns again and I knew that he was worth eating. I dragged its body back to the carcass of the bear and made sure to savor the ugly horn in the brute’s presence. The ugly horn took a while to stop screaming, but by the end, I was eating alone in the presence of the fallen body of a monstrous bear.
When I had grown tired of sitting with the body of the bear, I had decided that I needed to find somewhere to nap, so I started to limp back to my cave. I had also decided that ugly horns were delicious and decided to eat more of them when they came. There had to have been more of them.
As I limped home I noticed that the music of the forest was had harmonized again. The strings of the wind wafted forever past me, the woodwinds of the birds floated above the reach of my hurt limbs, and I could hear the gentle rapping of the snares of a stream not too far from here. I could listen to the music of the forest forever, maybe even someday direct the flow of it if that were ever possible. The song of the forest was the most important aspect to life, and it would be nice to direct it in the direction I wanted it to go.
The closer I got to the cave, I remembered that I was a conductor once. Whatever that’s supposed to be.
- by GreaterSeraph