Spoilers! Please read Part 1 and Part 2 before moving forward. Man, I didn’t quite get to put in everything I wanted into this ending. Oh, well. Check out Short Story Salad if you want to read the rest of the shorts from this week! See you next time!
”Hurry, my boy!” shouted D’Artagnan, his fear replaced by urgency.
Tiamat tore his eyes away from the shrieking dagger man and yanked his blade down, tearing into the black bark of the tree. The wooden flesh ripped open like the flesh of a wild animal and a foul odor wafted up from the hole. Tiamat covered his nose with the bend of his arm.
The man-like creature with teeth as sharp as daggers wobbled to his feet, like a baby figuring out its legs for the first time. Tiamat forsook his olfactory senses and dove his arm into the wound of the tree. The opening was not large enough for anything more than his arm, and he grasped blindly at the darkness within.
The dagger man took a step forward.
Tap! Tap! Tap! Tap!
D’Artagnan dashed in front of the dagger man, tripping him in his stride. “Is it there?!”
“I don’t even know what I’m looking for!” shouted Tiamat. The woman had given him no instruction on what it was he was coming to retrieve. Just to open the tree with this particular blade and to take what was inside back to her.
Tiamat’s fingers brushed against the cool, curved surface of something metal and a rush of static filled his being. He took hold and out of the tree he pulled a small, brass oil lamp. Tiamat’s eyes narrowed; for the briefest of moments he saw that etched onto the brass surface lay an intricate design of symbols interlocking with each other before disappearing in the glare of daylight.
The lamp all but slipped through Tiamat’s fingers as he rushed his hands to his ears. The tiny red eyes on the dagger man’s face flared up with a smokeless fire as a piercing cry erupted from his gapping mouth. He stepped over D’Artagnan and with the grace of a performer charged for lamp in Tiamat’s hands.
“That’s quite enough, I’d say!” The warm glow of a fire appeared at the base of D’Artagnan’s rib cage. The skeleton leapt to his feet and roared. The flames flowed from his belly to his mouth and blasted out, grasping hold of the dagger man’s legs. The dagger man’s cry shifted from anger to pain as he fell to his knees. Tiamat’s mouth hung open. “There’s no time to be impressed! Run, my boy! RUN!”
Tiamat nodded, sheathed his blade and dashed for the door, as fast as his limp leg could carry him.
The dagger man shook and contorted within the flames and rolled to put them out. His tiny red eye caught a glimpse of Tiamat shuffling his way to the doorway, all pain fell from his body and he threw out his arms. The floors of the masjid trembled and the walls shuddered. Tiamat fell to his knees and cursed when his bad leg struck the ground. He could hear D’Artagnan urging him forward and so he crawled.
The dagger man, engulfed in flames staggered forward, inching his way toward Tiamat. With each of his steps, the room collapsed. The windows fell onto themselves. The beautiful painted designs of the archways crumbled into dust. The pillars shook and gave way to the weight of the ceiling. Still the dagger man perused.
Tiamat was an arms’ length from the threshold of the entryway but the dagger man was an arm’s length if not closer to Tiamat. He grasped the cornerstone of the wall and threw all his weight into rolling out of the masjid and crashing down the stone staircase onto the ground of the meadow.
Tap! Tap! Ta-!
Tiamat’s eyes were screwed tightly shut, his arms cradling his head and in his hands, he held the lamp. He could only hear the cry of the dagger man shout louder than ever before being muffled in the debris.
His eyes still shut, his being shaken to its core, Tiamat only heard the pounding of his own heart. Then the rhythm of his breathe flooding in and out of his lungs. But the murmuring prayers of the dagger man were no more.
The lamp was snatched from his hands and Tiamat scrambled to his side. A young woman with deep auburn eyes set into a narrow face with long black hair stood over him, with the lamp in her hands. She almost grinned. “Ah. Thank you, Tiamat. That will be all.” She turned to leave.
“W-wait!” She did. Tiamat struggled to his feet. He looked around. D’Artagnan was no were to be seen.
“I haven’t forgotten your payment,” the auburn eyed woman walked up to Tiamat and caressed her hand along the inside of his leg, “If that’s what you’re concerned about.”
Tiamat pulled away. “Wait-“
“Have you changed your mind? Do you not want to be paid for your services?”
“No…” Tiamat listened closely. The field was silent; no wind or birds chirping. Certainly no tapping of bone to stone.
“No as in yes?” she asked.
“I… I want D’Artagnan.”
“D’Artagnan? Is that what you call him?”
“That skeleton of a cat that has been following me. Bring him back.”
The auburn eyed woman’s eyes went wide and soon her mouth followed suit, laughing a deep, sharp laugh.
“What’s so funny?!” demanded Tiamat. “You can do that can’t you?! You brought him back once!”
“That was not her doing, my boy.”
Tiamat whirled around. Never in his life had he been so glad to see an animal skeleton sitting there before him. Tiamat lowered himself to one knee. “But.. how did you escape? You were still inside.”
D’Artagnan sighed. “It’s hard to explain…”
Still the auburn eyed woman laughed. “It seems like D’Artagnan hasn’t been telling you the whole truth.”
D’Artagnan glared and stepped forward. “You are hardly one to talk, Jiniri.”
She gasped and stepped away. As she stepped, her human form melted away and in her stead stood a tall, charred, hollow corpse with a smokeless flame resting in her belly. Jiniri frowned. “Fine, I care not.” In her wiry claws she crashed the little brass lamp. The metal seemed to cry out in agony for a moment before burning away into dust. “We’re done here.”
“Stop, Jiniri,” called D’Artagnan, “What of Tiamat?”
Tiamat shied away as one of Jiniri’s long, pointed fingers traced along the inner side of his leg. With every inch, Tiamat felt a surge of relief radiating out. Jiniri stepped back. “Go on then. Stand.”
Tiamat braced himself for the pain he had grown accustomed to as he made his way to his feet, but there was none. He stretched out and bent his limb, and it was as easy as he had remembered. “I can’t believe it…” he breathed.
“Yes well, well done,” she turned from them.
“Jiniri, Tiamat retrieved your former prison and destroyed your guardian when you could not even enter such a place. You owe him a little more than his leg!” demanded the skeleton cat.
“Too bad he never asked for it.” The hollowed corpse winked and vanished from the meadow, leaving behind a boy, his skeleton cat and a destroyed house of worship.