Story for the Day: The House Centipede
We have many insects that look terrifying but are in truth quite harmless. House centipedes here, though rather horrid-looking, are not as horrific as they are on the islands.
Alasdair relished the notion of the giant shedding tears over his precious treasure being taken from him. It should be an excellent retaliation for all his smiles and unwarranted remarks. And why should he not be fatigued and sweating in such a Gods-forsaken place? was Alasdair’s mocking cogitation. The astonishing beauty, excellent friends, and gracious manners assisted him in enduring all the horrors of tasteless fare and oppressive weather. He had still more terror to feel whereupon coming to their shelter for the evening and stepping over the threshold of Rautu’s home, Alasdair was greeted with a most horrifying sight. “By the Gods,” he shrieked, “what is that?”
|Leggy: Alasdair's new bane.|
On the far wall, at which Alasdair was vehemently pointing and gaping, was a creature that he could never have conceived existed: a body long and cylindrical divided into short sections by flexible scales, numerous long and bent legs furnishing the underside of a serpentine form, a large head with protruding black eyes , a mouth laden with retracting mandibles. The horrid being seemed to take little notice of the entering party; it only glanced momentarily at Alasdair, who was beginning to whimper in dread, and then continued its business of crawling along the wall and slinking over itself as it went.
“Oh, I abominate those,” the commander in complaining voice.
Alasdair was all aghast. “You’ve seen them before?” he whispered, half afraid that the creature should hear and understand him.
“A few times, though never one in the house. They jump and they sting-“
“Sting?” Alasdair’s voice raised in pitch, but he recollected himself only in time to have his composure ruined by the creature slinking off the wall and onto the ground. “Oh, By the Gods, it’s coming towards me,” he yelped, leaping behind the commander for protection.
“They are harmless unless threatened,” said Rautu, hardly trying to suppress his devious smile.
“Or dead,” Alasdair rejoined. He closed his eyes and wished the horrid, writhing creature away, but the more thought he devoted to the idea of its being there, the closer to him the creature came. He shivered, made a revolted face, and tugging on the commander’s arm pleaded, “Please tell me you can light those on fire.”
She stifled a laugh and muttered, “Perhaps if you ask Rautu very nicely and bribe him with chocolate, he might remove it from his home.”
“I would not touch the Tseshiha,” the giant demanded.
“See?” Alasdair insisted. “He’s just as reluctant as I am.”
“I think you mean afraid,” the commander laughed.
There was a pause. Alasdair had parted his lips to assert Rautu’s shared dislike for the creature when her pronouncement had silenced him. He frowned and considered her accusation momentarily before deciding, “I’m not afraid.”
“Very well, then. You take it outside.”
He might have done as the commander suggested were the creature not so unconscionably hideous. Even thinking of bending down and taking the long, coiling creature into his arms made him shudder and wretch.“Oh, Gods. I cannot touch that thing.”
Rautu made a dark grin as the creature slithered past his feet and toward the king. He allowed Alasdair to wallow in horror before beginning to unpack their effects from the corner of the main room and saying, “It will leave on its own when it realizes there is no food here.”
“And what does something like that usually eat?” Alasdair asked, stepping back and endeavoring to govern himself.
“Fallen leaves, insect husks, and shed Undu legs.”
Alasdair had expected king’s toes to be something the creature should eat, and when it came as close to him as his riled nerved would allow, he purposely moved his feet away from its twitching mandibles. Please don’t touch me, was his terrified notion. He turned his face aside and tried to look at anything else other than the writhing creature, but its snapping mandibles, clicking feet, and fidgeting antennas compelled him to turn back. He could not but look at it, and the only manner in which he could contrive to hide from its view was to grab the commander’s shoulders and place her directly in his path. “There,’ he humphed. “Now, it will have to go through you if it wants to nibble on me.”“I daresay something with a mouth that atrocious does not nibble,” she smirked. The creature stopped where it was, bobbed its head, and began to crawl over the commander’s feet. The sensation of hundreds of small and tinkering legs afforded her a something like mild dread.