A chapter from the fantasy adventure I am currently editing, 'The Crocodile's Son.' This is at the end of part three of four (I sometimes use Michael Moorcocks's four-part structure but I haven't managed to write one in three days yet!). Short, as my chapters tend to be — our protagonists had just replaced Qala's kidnapped son with a changeling when things go quite awry.
There was another making an entrance, not easily as did the gods, but laboriously pushing its way through to another world. A misshapen head could be glimpsed, and tusks, amid the shifting images.
The nurse sprang to the crib and grabbed up the changeling. “I’ll keep you safe, little one!” Her eyes darted here and there, wildly, uncomprehending.
A banging of the door, the stamp of many feet, as Flawum and his men burst in. “We heard a scream,” spoke the Pretender, gazing upon the confusion within the chamber.
Qala had just enough Sharshic to follow what had been said. “I have thrown shadow around us,” whispered Lenco to her. “We could try to slip out but it may not be possible with all this turmoil.”
“What is it?”
“A mafadwi. A monster from my world,” the god told her. “And the mother of the changeling, if I am not mistaken.”
Mawa remained visible, her slender body standing between them and this monster. “She can not match the mafadwi in that form,” said her brother.
“Then I will stop it,” declared Budo, taking form beside them. He again held his heavy club. The massive god shook his head. “Stupid Mawa!”
“I agree,” spoke Lenco. “I shall try to get Qala and her son out of here.” The men who had entered were ranged around the door now, uncertain, staring at what was going on. It would be impossible to slip through them. “We must wait.”
Qala only held her boy tightly and remained quiet. But she longed to be able to have her knife in her hand, to stand and fight whatever threat she and Zedos faced.
The mafadwi now was completely in the room. She was tall, taller than the bulky Budo, and long of arm and leg. Short, heavy tusks sprouted from the lower jaw, curving up toward surprisingly large eyes, and both fingers and toes ended in claws. The lean, muscular body was naked and hairless — and was that a tail Qala glimpsed, restlessly waving back and forth?
“Mong!” she shouted, her voice like the wind through a deep chasm. Both babies cried loudly at the sound. The mafadwi looked about, confused by this.
Budo stepped forward, brandishing his cudgel. “Do not make trouble here, Ir!”
Mawa glanced at her half-brother, standing at her side, protecting her, though he had little reason. “You know this monster?”
He answered not, but Ir, the mafadwi, did, glaring at the goddess. “You took my Mong!”
“I was only borrowing him for a little while,” claimed Mawa. “You know he would have popped back.”
“Want him now!” The mother mafadwi’s eyes went back and forth, resting first on the cringing nurse and then going to Qala.
“She can see us,” the Mur whispered.
“So it seems,” was Lenco’s only answer.
The monster stepped forward. Budo’s club swung, only a warning. “Go back, Ir,” he told her. “I’ll fix things.”
“No. Give Mong now!” She fixed her great golden eyes on Mawa. “Or I eat sister.”
“Do not make the Spider come forth,” warned the goddess, “or you will be one who is eaten.”
The mafadwi was not going to be reasoned with. Qala could see that; would she be any different, placed in the same situation? Why didn’t they just let her take her little one, now their plan had gone so awry?
Budo apparently had the same thought. Not as dense as his siblings thought, was he? “Take him and leave,” he ordered. “But hurt no one here!”
“I didn’t know a mafadwi could cross worlds,” whispered Lenco, musing only to himself, perhaps. “She must have followed the bonds that connected her son to his home.”
Ir stepped forward slowly, cautiously, showing she meant no harm, while Budo kept a watch on her. Mawa had backed away now, clearly exasperated by the way her plans had played out. The mafadwi stared at the nurse, huddled on the floor, protecting as best she could the child she held. “Mama,” spoke Ir, nodding her head, and turned away.
“Mong!” She leaped toward Qala, her long arms reaching. Too late did Lenco try to get between them; far too late did Budo even realize what was happening. And Qala’s strength could not begin to match that of the mafadwi. Zedos was taken from her arms and Ir disappeared in a cloud of disorienting images.
Seconds later, Mawa did the same.
“We must hide,” said Budo. “Shadows, brother.” He and Lenco held the distraught Qala, too shocked to make any sound.
Flawum came forward, staring at the empty space where he had lately beheld monsters, monsters such as he would never have believed existed. It is notable that the Pretender was the one with the courage to do so; he was not so useless as many thought him. He knelt by the whimpering nurse.
“Were there two babies? I thought I saw two.” Flawum picked up the changeling and peered at it. “This — does not look like the same child as before.” The little being growled at him. “It doesn’t even look human!”
There came a sudden sound like a great wind. There was a flaw in the air, a broken place, opening like a ravenous mouth, ready to devour. The changeling child was pulled into it and Flawum the Pretender went with him.