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Stories from Members
Dane Peacock

The Monster in the Basement

Hoss limped into Boomtown more dead than alive. His iguana-steed had died while crossing the dunes. His water skin had dried up yesterday. He made it as far as the saloon before he collapsed. The bartender and a passing mud gnome came to his aid. They took him to the Shaman-doc who treated him with smokes and liquids.

Hoss slowly regained his strength over the next few days. When he was well enough, he went down to the saloon to thank the bartender.

Where ya headed to?” asked the bartender.

Nowhere that I know,” said Hoss, “I’ve just been driftin’ ever since the, you know, the thing…”

Yeah, I know. How would you like a job at the saloon cleanin’ tables and fixin’ stuff that needs a’ fixin’?”

That’s mighty kind of you,” Hoss accepted gratefully.

On his first day of work, the bartender pulled Hoss aside and whispered, “There’s one very important thing I gotta tell ya: If ya ever hear someone ride into town yellin’ ‘The Behemoth’s a’ comin’!” you git yerself outta this here town as fast as you can and don’t never come back. Never. Swear it, boy.”

Hoss swore it.

The next few weeks were the happiest of his life. The bartender rented him the room above the saloon. He made friends with everyone in town including the roughest brutes and half-men. He developed a crush on the elfsprite who sang at the saloon on Thursdays. He played checkers with the troll lords when things were real slow.

One day, while serving cob-squash to a dryad, he heard a far off cry. The saloon suddenly became very quiet. In the stillness, the cry again came again. It was unmistakable,

The Behemoth’s a’ comin’!”

Hoss saw the dryad’s enormous eyes grow even wider, and then mayhem erupted all around. In the panic, Hoss was knocked from his feet. His head crashed against a table. The world went black.


***


Thump thump.

Hoss opened his eyes. The saloon was deserted. Everyone was long gone. He was alone. Chairs and tables were scattered all about.

Thump thump.

Hoss carefully sat up. The thumping was coming from just outside the saloon.

Thump thump.

The front of the saloon exploded inward. A huge beast lumbered through the doors. It was bigger than any ogre that Hoss had ever seen; at least ten feet tall and as wide as a wagon. There was a giant hole where the front doors used to be.

Hoss climbed unsteadily to his feet. The beast saw him. Quicker than lightning, the beast reached out a massive claw and grabbed Hoss by the neck, snatching him up off his feet. The beast gazed at him with mean, cruel eyes.

I’m thirsty,” said the beast in a menacing, guttural voice, and then threw Hoss to the ground. Hoss scrambled around behind the bar and drew a beer into the biggest mug he could find. He approached the beast and timidly offered the drink. The beast grabbed the mug and squeezed it between his thumb and pinky. The mug shattered as the beast roared loudly at Hoss, “I said I’m thirsty!”

Hoss ran behind the bar and filled a big bucket full of dark-bark ale and gave it to the beast. It angrily crushed the bucket in one palm. The beast grew more agitated. It yelled furiously, “I’M THIRSTY!”

Hoss, frightened beyond imagining, ran into the back room and rolled out a big keg of lava lager. He pried off the end and stepped back as the brew hissed and bubbled. The beast grabbed the keg in one hand, brought it to his mouth, and downed the lager in one impressive gulp. It slammed the empty keg down onto a table, shattering both.

Before Hoss could think, the beast grabbed him around the neck once again and brought him up to his face. Hoss squirmed and kicked as he felt the life being squeezed out of him.

The beast spoke in its deep, rasping voice, “You are very brave, or very stupid.” Then, to Hoss’s surprise, the beast let him go.

Hoss caught his breath and then squeaked, “W-w-would you like another d-d-drink?”

The beast stared at him incredulously and then growled, “Nope, I ain’t got time. Haven’t you heard? The Behemoth’s a’ comin’.”

With that, the beast turned for the front of the saloon and quickly lumbered away.


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