A Rare Feast

by Eric Drewes

Many odd men sat around a table drinking fungus beer and laughing loudly at one another's jokes. They had been there all evening and would have continued their merriment if it weren't for an unusual guest. Their master, the Cyrocade, had worked his long lanky body down through their tunnels and now arrived at their great hall - his head barely squeezed through the circular entrance.

"MEN! What are we doing here?" The Cyrocade asked with bewilderment.

"What boss? We're eatin'!" one said. "Why didn't you just ring for us if you needed something?"

"Well it just so happens..." the Cyrocade replied, "I was sleeping on my throne and woke up and realized we were NOT IN MY PALACE. Where are we?"

The men groaned loudly, one smacked himself on the forehead and said, "Eidtz! We haven't been in the palace in 1000 years!"

The Cyrocade worked his body through the entrance and sat crouched besides them on the dirty floor. He looked quite imposing next to their miniature table and chairs - he was twice their size! He pouted somewhat lazily and said, "go on..."

With a heavy sigh, the man started:

"Once upon a time, we were joyriding around in your crystalline space palace and happened upon a dying creature. It was a space nautilus, an ancient tentacled creature that lives for hundreds of thousands of years. It gave some long (boring) epic story etc. etc. about how it was the last of its kind and that when it died there would be no more left. While it gave its final epitaph, something clicked in that hollowed out skull of yours and you recalled (miraculously) that the reason the nautili were hunted down was for the pearl-like gem that resided deep in the core of their labyrinthine shell. I believe you originally intended to have it ground into meal for some porridge."

"Hmm... it is coming back to me now," the Cyrocade said, licking his lips.

The first man continued:

"So we landed on the husk of the beast and began our search. It took a little while longer than you anticipated so you had your throne brought in. You decided to take a nap until we found it..."

The Cyrocade furrowed his brow underneath his mask, "And that was a thousand years ago? Why did you not wake me?!"

One of the men raised his mug, "We figured out how to make fungus beer!" All the men downed their mugs simultaneously in an impressive show that had obviously been well practiced.

"Fools!" The Cyrocade howled, "So where is the gem now?"

Their fun over, the odd little men sighed. One opened a loot sack that was draped over the back of his chair, revealing an ovular shaped translucent orb. "It's right here boss."

"Fee fi fo forage, lets grind this gem to make some porridge... where's the mortar and pestle?"

"Hold on a second boss, let's think this through." The man holding the gem said, "Do you know how much this thing is worth?"

The Cyrocade looked disgruntled and gazed vacantly into the void. "No"

"We could trade this for almost anything, maybe some TRUE IRON."

The Cyrocade put up a hand, "what nonsense is this? TRUE IRON?"

One of the odd men sighed and pulled a large book from a bookshelf behind him.

"TRUE IRON (or mu-calcum): a substance as pure and true as anything (which isn't very pure or true, but its pure and true enough). A transcendent metal that pierces all, the flesh of beast and god alike, and guards against all as well. Once forged, it retains its shape for eternity."

The Cyrocade nodded, and began to see the value... he had a very refined palate - one that had grown tired of his feasts on the succulent and sentient, he now hungered for the sublime. What could be tastier than the flesh of a God? His musings were interrupted though, when a voice in the back spoke up.

"The gem ... there's something peculiar about it. I saw it when you pulled it from the sack. Hold it into the light!"

The man holding the gem raised it up so that the light of a nearby torch filtered through it, projecting a dull but beautiful green glow. Inside the gem, revealed by the light, were red veins projecting outward from the center - a sure sign that what they were looking at was not a gem at all.

"Inside that orb sits the last of an ancient and eternal race, one that has reigned majestically over the universe since the dawn of existence," the voice in the back said. "It's an egg!"

The Cyrocade nodded with satisfaction and asked rhetorically, "An omelet then?"

The odd men looked at him contemplatively. Embarrassed, the Cyrocade stared upwards at the curving husk of dead nautilus shell. His stomach grumbled softly and an idea took form and his mouth curved upward once again into a wide grin. "In for penny..."

"Huh?" his fellows asked.

"We have waited 1000 years here, what is a few more? The worm forgives the plow thusly, but we will never be forgiven regardless. Let the egg hatch and we shall dine on the fresh born meat of a nigh immortal creature - An unspeakable act, it is true, and a crime that will echo through history." The Cyrocade paused, "I am thinking fried crispy and served with a tart raspberry sauce."

Years passed as the Cyrocade snored, draped like a discarded rag doll over his throne of gold and bones. Though incubated by a band of drunken idiots, the egg developed properly and was monitored daily via candle until its progress indicated it was ready. All preparations were made and a kitchen was built in the throne room for a quick turn-around once the adorable little creature was able to crack itself out of its crystal shell.

The Cyrocade awoke to the smell of raspberries being slow roasted over an open flame. A U-shaped banquet table had been set up with the throne itself sitting in the place of honor at the midpoint. The odd men sat all around, with the gem-like egg sitting on a table in the gap next to a large pot filled with frying oil that bubbled idly nearby.

The onlookers watched restlessly as the egg rocked back and forth as the creature inside struggled to create for itself an egress. Finally, a crack was made and it spread outward like a web. As the egg-gem cracked, the fragments of shell twinkled away into fine dust and disappeared. Meanwhile, the tentacles of the beast itself waved around anxiously from the gaps, the creature yearned madly for its first taste of the unknown world. After a few moments, the creature was able to pull its way out and began floating above the glitter dust of its former prison. It bobbed aimlessly as the odd men stared at it with wide-open eyes. The new-born nautilus seemed more innocent and pure than anything any of them had lain their eyes on (which wasn't that innocent or pure, but it was innocent and pure enough). It began to emit an ethereal blue glow as its tentacles grasped at the air, searching, as it attempted to pry from its surroundings some sense of understanding - none of the diners made a move. It hovered for a moment, hesitant, before floating lazily away and vanishing into the corridors that intertwined throughout its forbearer's shell - corridors with many exits into the freedom of open space. None moved to stop it.

The Cyrocade shrugged and set down his fork. For once, he was not hungry.

The End