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Arlinac Town Stories

The Light Eater

Part One—Preparations

My name is Siron. This is my mace. This is my bow. I am a Bergtroll. I hunt monsters.

The monster today is a Bugaboo. I was told it looks like a snake, and eats light.

Lots of kids make up pretend monsters. But some kids get too scared. They have bad dreams. They are afraid all day long. Then Little Humble takes the monster from their mind, and makes it real but far away. That is a Bugaboo.

The kid is not scared any more. But then a monster hunter like me has a job to do.

Tonight the rich Lady Vura will have a big party in her garden. There will be many torches and lamps. Her house is near where the Bugaboo was seen. She has paid me to guard the party. We both think all the light in the garden at night will make the Bugaboo come.

Lady Vura is hiding something. She knows more, but is not telling me. I see the secret in her eyes. Was it her kid who made up this Bugaboo? Is she having this party to try to make a monster come?

Today I get ready.

First I buy a fancy pair of goggles. Then I make them have magic.

I am a Bergtroll. Bergtrolls use musing. I hold the goggles. I close my eyes. I dream and imagine. I sing. I sway and dance.

I muse for an hour. When I am done the goggles have magic. They will let me see in the dark. I put them away. Their magic will only last one hour. I will only put them on when I need them.

Then I eat a big lunch. Musing is hard work.

Next I buy three small lamps. I do not fill their bases with lamp oil. Instead I use a drink made from boiling a special root. I use musing again. For the lamps I do not need to muse as long. When I am done, the drink will burn like lamp oil, the light will look especially yummy, and drinking the liquid or its light will make the drinker throw up. I name them emetic lamps.

I practice archery. I eat an afternoon snack. I take a nap. I might need to stay up late tonight.

One hour before the party starts I go to the house of Lady Vura.

Her home is in Arlinac Town. All the Lords and Ladies live in the town. Out of town are too many dangers. But she built her home at an edge of town, by a gate. The least safe spot.

Lady Vura greets me. She shows me the gardens. She shows me the people who work for her. There are many cooks and musicians and helpers. They will make the party happen.

I look at the garden. I see where the lamps will hang. I see where the torches on poles are put in the grass. I imagine I am a monster that eats light. Where would I come from? Which lights would I go to first?

The kitchen already has big plates of sliced vegetables. I snack and wait.

Part Two—The Strange Princess

The party has many people. They talk and nod to each other. They eat and smile at each other. They dance and laugh with each other.

The strange princess arrives an hour late. She is quiet and pretty. She is not a child. She is a young adult who calls herself a princess. But I do not believe her. Something is wrong with her eyes, but I cannot say what.

I ask her to dance.

She looks at me. "Those are not shoes for dancing."

I agree. "Tonight I wear boots."

She asks, "Why wear boots?"

I say, "Thick boots can protect my feet and shins from snakes."

She frowns. We dance. She is quiet and pretty. She does not dance well. She keeps looking at the lamps and torches.

I smile. "Thank you for the dance."

She frowns. "I do not like you."

I smile bigger. "Wait until later."

She snorts. It sounds like a hiss. "You do not scare me."

I nod. "But you are worried because you do not scare me."

She walks away. I watch her as I dance with someone else.

Part Three—The Fight

A half hour passes. I notice two lamps are dark. Where is the strange princess? I look for her. I see her standing by a lamp in a corner of the garden. She thinks no one watches. She leans forward. Her lips touch the lamp. The lamp goes dark.

I go to a table with snacks. The tablecloth is long. It goes down to the ground. I reach under and take out my emetic lamps and magic goggles.

The strange princess is not watching me. She is going to another lit lamp. I go quickly to the three dark lamps and replace them with mine. The light from my emitic lamps is a little bit brighter. I quickly go back to the table with snacks.

The strange princess sees the dark lamps are lit again. She sees the new light is different, brighter, yummier. She hisses. She looks around. I am sure she looks at me a long time. But I am eating snacks. My back is to her. She cannot see me smile.

She goes to the nearest emitic lamp. She drinks its light. I reach under the table and take out my mace and bow.

She coughs. She stumbles. She throws up. Then she glows and changes. Now she is a snake.

I was ready to fight a huge snake. But she is a tiny snake. A very fast, tiny snake. She races into some bushes.

The guests at the party saw her change. They yell. They run around. One puts his hands to his neck. The tiny snake leaps from his body as he falls down.

I drop my mace and bow. They will not help me fight a very fast, tiny snake. I pull the tablecloth off the table. I tie knots in its corners.

The snake leaps at the lamps and torches. The garden gets dark. I put on my goggles.

The snake is hiding under bushes again. I cannot see it. But I hear it hiss. The monster hates me most. It does not know I can see in the dark. It will try to get me very soon.

I squat down. I put my feet on two of the corner knots. I hold the other two knots on the ground in my hands. I hope the snake is not smart.

It is not smart. It races at me. I stand up and hold my hands high and wide. I fall forward, trapping the snake under me, under the tablecloth. I push the cloth. The snake wiggles. But it is trapped. When I stand I hold the cloth like a bag. The snake is trapped inside in the middle. I look at the party guests. "Rope, please."

I go to the man who was bit on the neck. He is alive. He will get beter.

I eat some cake. Tomorrow I will sell the Bugaboo to the Arlinac Town Zoo. The zoo staff knows how to cage and care for monsters.

Part Four—The Secret

After the party is done I walk next to Lady Vura. "You knew it could look like a person."

Lady Vura is not surprised. "I knew. But I knew you could deal with it."

I ask, "How old were you when you made up that monster?"

Lady Vura starts to protest. But she does not. "I was six years old. But I do not remember. Little Humble took away all that."

I say, "No one died."

Lady Vura starts to cry. "Not tonight. Two bites to kill. Tonight it was scared and kept moving."

I say, "Not your fault."

Lady Vura sniffles. "Thank you."

I kiss the back of her hand while watching her eyes. "You are a good lady." That is a good enough good-bye.

I leave with my mace at my belt and my bow on my back. I have the goggles and three lamps in a bag in one hand. Their magic is gone, but I can use musing again. I have the monster in a bag in the other hand.

I walk home. It is nice to have some time alone.

My name is Siron. I hunt monsters.