It’s time for another Flickr story and this one was a fun one to write. If you’ve read the Flickr story from December, you’ll see a familiar character in this one (actually both are the same. The hero was originally named Lailoken in “Aimee’s Quest” but I changed it just before posting it). It wasn’t intentionally created as a sequel or alternate story, but it does come across that way. Maybe one day I’ll write the adventures of Lailoken and Brida, but for now we have another fantasy piece featuring two of my favorite characters.
The picture was found on Flickr, though I’m not sure where the actual place is. I loved the colors and the massive mountain in the distance. As I stared at the image, the story started unfolding. What you have below is what I came up with. Please share the story with others and feel free to leave a comment below. I appreciate any and all feedback. Thanks!
The Spine of the Gods
“They are beautiful, aren’t they?” Lailoken asked. He and his snowcat Brida sat along a high ridge overlooking a verdant valley dotted with brown and red. The late autumn air swirled around them. Brida looked up, nudged her head against Lailoken’s thigh and laid her head back down.
“The Spine of the Gods. Don’t you know what this means?” he asked. Brida didn’t move. “Well, if you were any kind of snowcat Brida, you’d know. We’re almost at the edge. Once we cross over, who knows what awaits us.”
Lailoken gazed across the valley to where it ended abruptly in sheer grey cliffs that rose high in the sky. They looked like a giant beast lay down and died, leaving an enormous skeleton. The cliffs rose like vertebrae in the sky from which it earned its name Spine of the Gods. From this vantage point, they looked impassable. What lay beyond…that was stuff of legends and that was where Lailoken and Brida were headed.
Lailoken rubbed Brida’s snowy white head. The giant cat purred loudly. “Come on, we need to get down there before nightfall,” Lailoken said to Brida. The cat purred louder. “Brida, come on now,” Lailoken said as he stood up, brushing the dirt and grass from his woolen pants. Slowly, Brida rose and stretched her long frame, letting her sharp nails poke from her paws as she did.
It took them close to four hours to make their way down to the valley floor. They walked along a stream that bubbled and gurgled until they came to a small village nestled in the middle of the valley. There were only four roads, more like two that intersected in the center of the village.
“Brida, stay out here until I can find us a place to stay. They might not be too welcoming to a large snowcat like you,” he said as he scratched her under her chin. She rubbed on his thigh almost knocking him over. “Brida, you’ll be safe out here. I’ll be back soon.” With that, Lailoken walked on towards the inn.
“Welcome to the Dark Dog Inn,” the innkeeper said as Lailoken walked inside. The room was dusty but comfortable. Once inside, Lailoken froze. The innkeeper had the face and head of a giant dog, like a retriever of some kind. He’d never seen a real caninian and the sight of one startled him.
“Some kind of stranger, eh?” the dog faced innkeeper asked. His face was a deep brown with large brown eyes and a full set of teeth. His long ears hung down to his shoulders.
Lailoken struggled for words.
“Yeah, you aren’t from around here. Not too many visitors from out of the valley.” The innkeeper raised his snout and sniffed the air. “You brought a snowcat here?”
Lailoken looked at the innkeeper carefully. “Yeah…yeah I did. She’s harmless though. She won’t bother anyone. I was looking for a place we could stay. But…”
“But what? You think we can’t handle a snowcat around here? We’re caninian, but we are civilized. My name’s Gorthe. Welcome,” he said and flashed a smile that was at once warm and threatening. He reached out a hand that was all human. Lailoken cautiously shook it.
“Come, let’s get you settled in. So what brings you here?” Gorthe asked. He motioned for Lailoken to follow him down a hall to a small room at the end.
“Just passing through,” Lailoken said. Gorthe eyed him and nodded.
“Here you are,” he said waving a hand to the empty room. “You can stay here, but your snowcat will have to stay outside in the stables. No animals are allowed in the inn,” Gorthe said. Lailoken wanted to protest, to say how could half-dogs say any such thing, but thought better of it.
“Thank you Gorthe. I’ll need to show Brida where she can stay.” Lailoken left the inn and walked back to where he left Brida. He found her laying in the tall grass away from the road watching for people passing by.
“You won’t believe it Brida. They’re caninians!” Brida didn’t flinch. “Did you hear me girl? They are half-dogs! I thought those were just myths.” Brida licked her paws. “Well come on, I found us a place to stay.” Brida rose and trotted to Lailoken’s side. She followed him down the road to the inn where he led her to the stables.
“I know it’s not the best, but it’ll do. I’ll bring some food later. Rest up, tomorrow we go to the Spine.”
The night passed without incident. Gorthe gave them a few small loaves of dense bread for the trip and wished them well. Lailoken and Brida were gone before the little village woke from the cool night.
It took most of the day before they were at the base of the Spine. The sheer grey cliffs rose high into the clouds where they couldn’t see the top. Brida growled as they stood marveling at the sight. “What is it girl? You knew we were going here. We are going through Brida. We’re crossing to the other side.” The snowcat licked her paws unconcerned.
Lailoken pulled a map from out of his sack, unrolled it and thought. He scoured over the ancient markings. “Ahh, yes…there it is,” he said out loud, rolled it up and put the map away. “Brida, we go this way,” he said pointing to a barely noticeable crack in the solid wall. They walked closer and Brida’s ears perked up at the sound of a low humming noise.
They walked closer and stopped just outside the crack. Inside Lailoken watched in wonder as a glowing portal in hues of blue and purple shimmered before him. The hair on Brida’s back stood up and she growled a deep menacing growl. “Brida,” he said softly, stroking her massive head, “it’s ok. This is the way through the Spine. We step in there and it takes us to the other side.” She hesitated as Lailoken stepped forward. “Come on, let’s go,” he called to her. With a hesitation not normally shown, Brida carefully walked towards him.
Lailoken stepped in the shimmering portal first, his leg breaking the vertical plane. Brida followed. Just as her head broke through the portal, Lailoken heard a shout behind him.
“No! Stop! Don’t go in there!” It was Gorthe running towards them, his large ears flapping with each step. Lailoken looked back at him, confused. “Stop! The caninians…don’t go in there!”
It was too late. Lailoken’s momentum carried him forward. On the other side of the portal, a new race of beings emerged. They came to be known as the felinians.