Skittering, whispering, swarming through sky,
Here come the beasts with the spikes and green eyes,
Chattering, clattering, battering air,
Long before you even know that they’re there,
They’re on you. With biting and tearing and nipping,
Through soft yielding flesh their long teeth will be ripping
For hunger, lads! Hunger’s a void and a curse.
They’ll pack all the empty space full, then reverse
And away they’ll then fly. There, look at them swarm!
A family of devils, of creatures in harm
And blood in their wake. Aye! Ships you may fly,
Go, stay in your houses, shriek, yell, and cry
And pray for salvation. Fools! None of that’s here.
You’re better off running through Adriel, clear
From low Gelspar to high on Celestial Plateau,
Naked and waving hearth crystals in tow
You’d still be much safer. When these beasties find you
Between their sharp teeth they’ll chew, shred, and grind you
And leave your torn body in chunks on the floor.
Don’t give me that look! I’ve seen it before.
You think I’m a nuisance. I’m old, blind, and foolish.
It’s true that I am—but I’ve still seen the cruellest
And bloodiest beasts in all broken Axia,
Nightmare on nightmare, pulled straight from the cracks of my
Thoughts and my horrors and worst waking fears.
I’ve said it all now. I can’t be more clear.
The slaughterfish, lads. The slaughterfish bite.
And if you should see them, remember this night.
Now hand me my crutches, lad, there in the corner,
Best I get on before night, now I’ve warned you.
Takes me much longer to walk, click, and bump,
Once the damned slaughterfish left me a stump!
–“The Ballad of the Flying Teeth,” popular tavern song from cities across Axia
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This week’s Archive story was written by Gregory A. Wilson, speculative fiction writer, college professor, Twitch streamer / Dungeon Master, musician, and podcaster. Greg has published several novels and a graphic novel (with more longer work forthcoming), plus short stories in various places, most recently in the Mystery! Anthology published by Down and Out Books.
Art by Toma Feizo Gas, a gamer, illustrator, and daydreamer. He has contributed his skills and artwork to legendary titles like Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering and worked on a score of tabletop and video games such as Infinity, Star Trek Adventures, Mutant Chronicles, and Robert E. Howards’s Conan RPG.