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View Full Version : Encounter With A Sephitdae (Excerpt from a longer story)



Labyrinthine
December 29th, 2012, 06:23 AM
(I'm looking for any critiques, constructive criticism, questions, anything! I love questions for sure; this is part of a larger story I'm happy to fill in any details or lack of clarity. Good feedback for me to go back through, and to connect it all together.)

The sephitdae growled and snapped hungrily close behind Lara as she ran for her life. The rapid four-beat sprint of the beast's paws pelting in the snow, and Lara's own thumping, desperate heartbeat were the only things the terrified 17 year old could hear. Her fearful, confused sprint out of town took her out into the woods now, towards her home, her sanctuary. She knew not how much longer she could keep up her pace against such a predator as the one upon her now, which was quickly closing the distance and grinding away Lara's head-start. She could more loudly hear its hungry panting, like that of a dog, but a much larger dog than ever lived in the village. At last, just ahead on the hill ahead, rested a modest, two-floored thatched roof cottage: Lara's home. The lights were all out in the windows upstairs as she expected; her sister Rose was taking shelter deeper in the woods with their mother, where Lara was supposed to be. Daniel hopefully fared well against the enemy, and came home safe... Just when she thought her heart and her lungs would burst of exhaustion, Lara put on a final burst of speed, taking her numb legs up the hill to the house's worn but solid oak door, which was slightly ajar. Taking no time to look back, Lara threw open the door and slammed it behind her with a bang. Out of instinct she immediately flicked down the locking metal bar of the door.

Glancing around, the house wasn't as dark as she expected; her eyes had adjusted to the darkness of the woods already. Before she even had time to catch her breath, Lara's heart skipped a beat (perhaps it would just burst out of her chest) as the sephitdae smashed itself against the door, rattling it in its frame. The ravenous monster sounded furious as it raked its claws on the wood; hissing most unlike a dog as it did so. Lara did as her father or Rowan would have done, finding heavy objects best for further reinforcing the door. She pushed over the bookcase immediately adjacent to the door, a few tomes (out of the few there) fell to the floor with thuds upstaged by the slam of the whole heavy furniture piece falling sideways to rest securely against the door and wooden floorboards. The sephitdae outside slammed itself against the door yet again, and then again, to no avail, though Lara swore she heard the oak creek a bit against the latest blow. Wasting no time, Lara dragged over her family's kitchen table and a dining room chair, piling both against the door over and on the bookcase. Though it was a grim calculation, Lara knew that other villagers would be fleeing the minions of the Baron tonight; the one at her door could hopefully give up soon in search of easier prey. Running back to the kitchen again, Lara checked her mother's knife-rack for any of the larger cutting knives; of course nothing was left, as her mother and siblings needed protection too.

Swearing to herself, Lara next swung open the door to the living room, to see if at least a fire-poker remained. What luck; there in the smoldering embers of the family fireplace rested the bent iron rod. Lara grabbed it, and appreciated how much more secure she felt holding anything at all that at least approached a means of defense. Making a move back towards the door to the front room, Lara's small feeling of security was shattered yet again. The living room window! She spun around to the wall behind her, where sat the large rectangular window looking out onto the woods and creek behind her home. It was big enough for a human to climb through; could the nasty creature fit? The sephitdae...Lara had failed to notice; it was no longer working on the front door! She ran to the window, pulling the curtains closed with her upheld fire poker, as if flimsy blue cloth could prevent entry by a hulking wolf-beast. That was what this thing was, wasn't it; a sephitdae was some twisted, large hybrid of wolf and man? Rowan heard a lot of rumors on his travels to the big cities, that he loved to pass along, though even then he'd only heard about these things and never seen one. The most striking sound they made was their sharp, furious hisses; they weren't a thing like a sound a wolf would do, more like a great weasel. Lara hadn't gotten a great look at any of the stalking, hunting ones back in town, she'd just seen pitch black fur, creep from the shadows, wicked claws bigger than a wolf's, and teeth and snouts, and so fast, a foul stench of what must have been death...and so much blood...

Lara cut off her racing thoughts, focusing on the tasks at hand. Could the sephitdae smell her through the walls of the cottage, was its sense of smell as good as a wolf's too, could it even track her scent still through the snow? She listened intently, even as she backed away from the window...the predator must have been circling the house now...unless it decided to stalk off into the shadows after someone else. Lara heard then the sound of faint tapping on the window, and could barely make out deep but subdued breathing. Was the beast trying to listen to her, make a stealthy entrance, was it that smart? Not taking the time for her pursuer to either open or smash the window, Lara crept out of the living room, closing the door quietly behind her, latching it. Unfortunately, it didn't have a lock, and Lara refused to risk the time or noise moving more stuff in front of this internal door as well. To her left were the stairs to the second floor; much more room for hiding up there...or even preparing an ambush, if she found the courage. Her heartbeat quickened ever more as she climbed the stairs; she tread carefully enough to avoid their familiar squeaking parts and quickly enough to satisfy her urge for safety. Just as her left foot was about to touch down on the top step, Lara nearly stumbled and fell in shock as a muffled crescendo of shattering glass rang out from downstairs.

She composed herself enough quickly to step into the upstairs hallway. It sat silent and dark; she could see the ajar doors to her and her sister's room, her brother's room, her parents' room...wait. Her parents' room had light coming from it; lantern light flickered out onto the otherwise dark old floorboards and whitewash walls of the hallway. “H-hello??” Lara whispered loudly. “Anyone t-there?” She sounded not nearly as brave as she'd wanted to. The noisy creaking of the door dividing the back living room from the rest of the house floated upstairs to Lara's hears. The sephitdae could open doors. Perhaps it was as smart as Rowan had declared. Rowan...was he still alive? He was strong, and brave, perhaps he'd made it. Still getting no response from her lit parent's room, Lara quickly stepped into her own, keeping the door open a crack to give whoever (human) was sharing the house with her one more chance to answer. “Lara, is that you?!” looking across the hall and down aways, Lara saw the familiar face of Rowan; his scruffy black hair, stubble, and big nose identifiable even in the limited light. He was sticking his head out from the room with the lantern or torch, and looked as shocked to see Lara as she was to see him. Lara didn't say a word, for just then she heard the creaking of the steps straining under the weight of the sephitdae as it climbed up them.

Lara ducked back fully into her room, closing the door nearly completely and silently. What was Rowan doing here?! He'd been with the militia last Lara heard; did he desert...was everyone else dead?! A million questions wanted to race through her mind, but Lara shut them out. She had to, as now she heard the straining of the stairs under the weight of the sephitdae...it truly was a much heavier creature than its agility would indicate. Lara clutched her fire poker, knowing she'd have at most one chance to strike for the head before those claws, or those fangs...she didn't want to think about it. She would just do. Do or die. She saw now the light from the lantern was out of course. Had the sephitdae seen it...? It was in the hallway now, a couple yards from Lara's door. It sniffed and growled quietly as it slunk about, the floorboards creeking on each step of its 4 paws. Lara saw the beast partially now, through the crack she had left the door open.

It was a large thing, over the size of a normal man, 8 feet tall or so. It stood closer to its full height now; walking on two of its great paws, each one with four long hooked black claws protruding. It's fur was as black as Lara remembered; it's legs, the knees of which went forward like those of a person, were covered in thick black fur, which looked a bit silkier and shinier than Lara expected. It's two front legs and paws, which could be called its arms and hands, didn't touch the ground now, but strayed just above it, the sephitade walked in a sort of hunched over position, not fully straight-up. It's head turned to look away from Lara's room towards her brother's room...it's head was shaped like that of a wolf, but even more elongated, Lara caught the glint of great white fangs. The head had black ears which pivoted now...Lara moved not a muscle, save the trembling which overcame her hands now. She couldn't see the beast's eyes from here. She did not want to. As it moved on a bit further past her door, she could see finally its tail, which most differentiated it from a wolf. It's tail was nearly as long and about as wide as the rest of its body, it floated black and white behind the sephitdae at a roughly 45 degree angle with a slight curve to it.

The tail's fur was a bit puffy, mostly black of the same shade as the body-fur, yet a moon-white stripe which divided into three at the middle and recombined itself at both base and tip, ran up and down the length, on the side of the tail facing the creature. Lara wiggled her nose at a slight scent drifting through the air, metallic almost, like iron, mixed a bit with a barely detectable rotten egg smell. She realized the scent was that of the sephitdae.

Lara backed away from the door inch by inch, wiggling backwards on her knees trying not to make a sound. Suddenly, a loud clang of metal sounded from down the hall. From her parents' room, where Rowlan was now sheltering! The sephitdae let out a long hiss of alarm or satisfaction, and stalked out of Lara's view. It was going to kill Rowlan! Lara came back to her door, and peeked out, the sephitdae had its back to her now...she could sneak up on it while it thought it had her cornered in the other room, knock it over the back of the head quickly. There was no way she was running to leave Rowlan to his fate; even he and his swordsmanship couldn't beat one of these things one-on-one. Steeling herself, Lara inched open the door enough to crawl her skinny torso out with her arms and legs. Her knuckles were white on the fingers clutching her desperate weapon. Out in the hall now, the large creature loomed in front of her, crept to within a couple feet of Rowlan's room now...it wasn't so tall when it wasn't standing up all the way, she could reach it's skull with her weapon. Her heart pounded so loudly in her chest Lara swore the sephitdae could hear it...she took a step towards it, weapon at the ready. The beast paused in its movement. Lara paused as well. Then the mysterious wolf-monster sniffed the air and snapped its head back over its shoulder towards its would-be assailant.

It locked eyes with Lara. It's eyes burned into hers; they were as terrible as one could imagine, the pupil's beady and slightly red, the rest of the eye an extremely dark shade of brown that looked black in the low-level of light. Lara found herself frozen with terror. All in half a moment, the sephitade dropped its front two paws to the floor, arched its back to raise its rear upward, shot its tail straight-up in the air, and flexed and tightened its fibrous muscles underneath its fur, all along its lower back and hind legs. As the fur of the tail puffed up to an absurd degree, (white fur poked out among the black even on Lara's side now,) Lara found the pose a bit comical. Then she swore the thing smiled at her vilely as it stared back at her, keeping its flexible body in such a shape that it could see her and yet have its rear...aimed at her? A “PSH!” like that of a large air rifle was the last thing Lara heard before a massive spray of hot, orange-red liquid smacked against her hands, body, arms, face, and eyes, drenching her. Simultaneously, her sense of sight was torn from her, and she desperately wished her sense of smell was; her nose and brain were absolutely filled with the foulest thing she had ever smelled or tasted.

The unnatural stench was most like that of pure liquid sulfur poured raw into Lara's nose and threat, mixed almost evenly with a scent like an unimaginably rotting and rancid carcass on a hot summer day, combined mercilessly with the distinct and sickly sweet, metallic odor of freshly spilled mammalian blood. Lara could think of, see or feel anything but the horrific stench; it invaded her body and mind like a plague, she wanted to be sick, she wanted to die. She at least did the former, repeatedly; continuing to desperately dry-heave as she fell to the floor in a pile. At the same time, she was overcome with a panic even greater than when the monster had first looked at her; she wanted to get away, be anywhere than where she was right now, away from this smell which invaded her away from those beady red eyes which seemed burned into her own eyes now. Her heart raced and pounded so fast and so hard it seemed close to literally exploding, Lara breathed faster and faster, wheezing and dry heaving still as she did so, sucking in more of the violent and fetid odor every time; her stomach shuddered in agony and her lungs struggled for air. Each time she breathed in, she felt a growing sense of flight-or-fight, but there was nothing she could fight and so she panicked all the more. Those eyes still stared at her, getting bigger and closer; her mind fought through the overwhelming spasms of her body and senses to realize that she couldn't even really see now, her eyes were stung and burning and sealed shut as tears streamed from them. Would she be blind forever, was the sephitdae eating Rowlan right now, was she already dead and in hell?!

Lara's mad panic continued as horrible sights played across her mind's eye; the red eyes of the monster which had so fouled her became fire now flying at her and she swore she could feel its heat singing her, then the fire morphed itself into a burning snake which hissed and lashed at her, its fangs stopping inches from her face. Lara couldn't tell if she was still lying down, stumbling into walls or running anywhere as she screamed and shuddered violently, and flashes of horrors of the depths of the sea and of hell came at her in waves, roaring.

The last thing Lara saw before her view faded to black entirely, was a pure white skeleton, naked of any clothing, holding in its right hand a great scythe. It gave Lara a sense of great comfort, bizarrely, she knew it meant her no harm...it seemed somehow protective. It appeared sideways now, Lara realized dimly she was lying with her head against the hard floor...blood dripped right in front her, which as Lara looked up she realized was coming from the scythe. The skeleton stopped just in front of her, reaching a glowing white hand down towards her, and then Lara passed out.

Lara woke up slowly. She regained first her sense of sight. She lay in a room...made of dark green cloth, she was laying sideways again, and could see the wall across from her swaying slightly, as it was light enough to be blown by wind. Finding the strength to roll over to her back, she saw the ceiling, low above her was of the same green material. Then she could feel again, and realized she lay on a very firm bed, blankets covering her entire body including her arms. She moved her hands and fingers a bit but no more...she could move at least. She still felt like she was in a dream, though not anything close to a nightmare anymore, as the sounds of murmuring voices coming from outside found her ears. Then she could smell again, and felt miserable. The scent of the sephitdae slapped her across the face, though at least it didn't attempt to murder her like before. The stench of burning blood and decay and whatever else didn't consume her senses anywhere near as strongly now, and didn't bring her to vomiting, but Lara still felt a very slight quickening of her heartbeat, a brief shortness of breath, and a tiny wave of fear washed over her. She glanced around and listened intently...was the sephitdae still nearby...? Deciding she'd be dead if so, she calmed herself, and decided right then to breathe only through her mouth. There was still a small taste there...nothing like the gut-wrenching sort of before. Nevertheless, the mixture of rotten eggs and raw bloody cow meat gave a gentle reminder of its foothold every time she breathed in.

Looking around with more clarity now, Lara realized fully she lay in a tent, and it was dark out...how did she get here? She obviously wasn't dead, she could feel her body just fine and her surroundings looked nothing like what she'd heard of The Glowing Beyond. Ahead of her draped the flaps of the tent, closed now. Lara sat up in bed, she had enough strength for that least. Her locks of hair didn't fall tangled down over eyes like usual...reaching back a hand, she realized her hair and been hastily tied up in tight bun. She pulled out the bit of string which held it, and was hit once again with the grisly smell of the sephitdae as her familiar hair tickled her cheeks and nose. Lara held a lock of hair to her nose and sniffed it...she gagged at the result. Her hair reeked, badly, and as she tore her normally-treasured hair back away from her face, she realized the skin of her hand also carried still the evil predator's scent, as did apparently the skin of her face, arms, and whole person. A burning anger found life in Lara's chest and stomach now. How dare that stinking demon do this to her?! She knew just who had sent the wretched monsters to destroy her town too. She felt an extreme need for a bath...and then some cold sharp steel in her hands.

Circadian
December 31st, 2012, 08:23 PM
Well, that was certainly descriptive. It needs a bit of editing though. I don't want to think that there's such a thing as too much description, but I think some of these paragraphs could be cut down a bit. To me, it just seemed a bit...excessive. There were other bits, however, in which I thought the description was perfect.


She knew not how much longer she could keep up her pace against such a predator as the one upon her now, which was quickly closing the distance and grinding away Lara's head-start

I just like the words you used in this sentence, particularly the ending. "...grinding away Lara's head-start." I like that word, grinding. It really makes you sense the urgency of Lara's predicament.

I noticed that some sentences could either be reworded or even split into more than one sentence. Some felt a bit like run-ons to me. There were a couple points that bothered me though. In this sentence, "At last, just ahead on the hill ahead..." you could really leave out one of the aheads. It should be either "At last, just ahead on the hill..." or "At last, just on the hill ahead..." Also, is it Rowan or Rowlan? I found both spellings in your story.

Overall, this is an intriguing piece. I'd really like to know who it was who sent the Sephitdae after her. And I must say, the Sephitdae going skunk on Lara caught me by surprise. And here I was, thinking it would attack with its claws. Nice!

~Circe

Labyrinthine
February 11th, 2013, 12:25 AM
I apologize loads for the very slow reply to this!!
Thanks for the feedback, I will work on its revision once I finish some other stuff.

One question, do you like the name "Sephitdae", for this creature?
It sounds good to me, but I was wondering about feedback on that in particular.

And yeah, I'm proud of my predatory wolf/skunk idea. :)