Perhaps the sea creatures who had told him about the path had not been very smart but they were very much correct that the path along the rocks was much easier to walk along. The sea air was cool and it was very pleasant so far. There were many places for him to explore, many areas to spin webs and even more things that he’d never seen before. It did make him wish that Will were here, though he knew that his friend would likely be curled up and taking refuge as far away from the water as possible. It was one of the regrettable things about their friendship that it was difficult for either of them to communicate fully and Toby had never really been privy to what had caused Will to develop such a strong fear of the ocean. Well, more the creatures in the ocean.

Toby’s attention was caught by the strange and lovely insects that were fluttering about above him right now. Some of them looked like the ones he knew. There were some very large white moths making their way on the sea breeze. They looked large and happy and lazy. He wondered if this was where city moths tended to prefer to be. He knew that most of them he’d met were usually rather stressed out. Well, they were also usually trapped in a web meant for a bird and most of them were pretty panicked by the time he arrived. He supposed that meant that he’d been looking to eat something when he arrived. That might make anyone a little panicked, and now that he thought of this, he felt a bit bad for them. Toby only ate them when there was nothing else and usually only the ones who were hopelessly tangled in the webs to the point where they wouldn’t be able to fly away. It was never enough to fill him at his size, but it wasn’t very nice to leave them be, only to have something without venom kill them later. At least he always put them out first.

Naturally, this is the only civilized way to hunt. It’s so gauche to make them scream. Such an amateur move.

Toby heard the voice but wasn’t sure how. It hadn’t made any sound. He knew it hadn’t. He hadn’t felt the vibrations of it in his legs or anywhere else. Still, the sound was one that he hear clearer than any he’d ever felt. Looking around, he hopped a little slower now, keeping more towards the shadows of the trail that he had before.

My apologies for the slight intrusion on your thoughts. I know it might be a bit of a faux pas but you must understand that hunters are rare in these parts. The dream tides offer a refuge, I suppose, to the sleepy and the aimless wanderers who fall on rifts when they are trying to find another plane of existence. Makes for interesting observation but rarely good conversation.

Toby looked up ahead and saw a figure relaxing against the branch of a tree, languishing in the moonlight. He cautiously crawled closer, aware that this was where the voice was coming from but still a bit on the wary side. It was clearly more intelligent than the sea creatures and it did have some idea about hunting after all.

You see, my new friend? This is what passes for conversation at the tides here. Let me guess now. Did our little mermaid friends all but beg you to come for a swim with them? In all the years I’ve come to these parts, they have learned to sing but have yet to ever use it to entice anything. Perhaps for the best. Their numbers may be small but they live very very long lives. At least, the survivors do. I’m not sure about this newest generation. A couple of centuries worth of hunting should have taught them something.

Centuries, Toby thought to himself. Those pitiful creatures couldn’t really be that old could they? If so, and they looked so young, he wondered how ancient that poor wretch Hector must be. Toby’s thoughts were interrupted by a quiet, easy laugh. It was the first noise the creature in the tree had made out loud.

Oh poor old Hector. And to answer your question, he’s quite ancient. Oh he was a titan in the old days. A horror of the old seas and there wasn’t a creature in the dream world or the real one who didn’t know of his power. As close to a god as one can feasibly get, some said. Alas, age has slowly been catching up to him. Had to happen eventually, though I do wish that he’d been better about egg fertilization. I know that it takes a greater millennium to care for them but the young ones do have quite a knack for taking care of themselves once they’ve hatched and formed their final scales. It’s been a while since there’s been a new batch and I’m afraid he probably didn’t make any time for progeny if that was the case. Pity. It’s been a while since there’s been a terror in the seas.

You must have been here for a long time yourself, Toby thought back to the creature. He’d made himself comfortable on a rock opposite of the tree where it was relaxing. It had long limbs and looked a bit more like Will when he was still mostly human. Toby couldn’t see it’s face but he could tell that the creature wasn’t human.

Like many of my kind, I am ageless. Once we reach that stage of maturity, we stop counting, you see. It hardly matters anyway. When one century passes into another, you hardly realize it until you start to notice all the trends that re-emerge. Very tedious but useful, you understand. And I see that you’re not exactly young yourself. I suppose that those of us who lurk in darker corners tend to last a little longer than those who run out into the daylight. This is a pleasant form that you have right now. Have you worked many fears before this?

Toby hadn’t had to work in any fear havens in a long while now. Even before he’d met Will, he’d been trying to avoid them for a while. The trend had seen a lot of dismemberment and while he was aware that many of the fears who did these things were simply young and having fun, he was less than thrilled to be in their company. He knew he was a fear figure too but he wasn’t very fond of the loud ones and they almost always made him panic with his webbing. There was less refinement and he hadn’t really enjoyed it.

If that’s indeed the case, I should wonder if we hadn’t crossed paths before. You carry the old code in you. I knew it when you were admiring the moths. We of the older set, we get so mocked for our standards, don’t we? Bah. They are young and will figure it out in time. They always do. I suppose it’s lovely to be young and enthusiastic for a time. But so loud and obnoxious they can be, no? Let them have their fun. The tides are always able to carry us through while we wait.

Have you been waiting for long, Toby wondered, stretching his legs.

For a time. But as you so aptly noted, there hasn’t been much incentive to wander back to our old haunts, has there? No. The young ones are just so loud and alas, they are learning at their own pace but it is a little on the annoying side. Ah but it won’t be so forever. I have heard the distant howls sometimes at dawn. There is change in the air. Something of a new order on the way, I suppose.

The creature sat up and in the moonlight, Toby saw for the first time that it was one of the long, human-like predators with the sharp teeth. Out of instinct, he prepared himself to jump away but he was calm again when looking at the predator’s face. It was one of the ones who used their eyes first and then they attacked. Still quite dangerous but Toby had never been susceptible to the way they made their eyes shine, so leaving them to their prey had never been a problem. In any case, he’d never known these to be a problems like the other longer ones with the markings on their faces.

We are such a varied lot, we vampires. While I’m flattered that you still regard me as a threat, you are quite right that your unique eyes make it rather impossible to make you into a viable victim. I do hope you’ll forgive me for saying that you are not quite as satisfying a meal as well so you can rest assured that I am not interested in ending our conversation with a struggle. I am, however, rather fascinated by the mention of this other creature you alluded to in your thoughts. Humor me, would you, and think of its face.

Somewhat unsure, Toby tried to draw to memory what the predator who’d entered the Safe Haven had looked like. He ended up thinking in short bursts about it and he did recall the markings as they seemed. He also recalled how the predator had appeased the cat and how it had been attacked by something like it but different.

A rogue Harlequin. How very interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *