The Tooth-Breaker

And she stood, pushing her trembling body out of the mire of manure and moss that covered the floor of the cavern. Above her was the Red-Fanged Beast, towering, smoke and poisonous gases leaking out of the corner of his half-open mouth that could not contain his immense teeth, even when they were broken and half-gone. It stared through its black pits down at the half-child human girl, and she stared back up at it, defiant but with a hint of pleading in her eyes. Long ago, its sight had been taken from it by the cold steel arrows of men, but it could see her there, a living tithe offered to a Beast that wanted nothing but to end it.

The Beast shifted forward, and the girl flinched imperceptibly. An uncontrollable wave of primal fear rushed through her. She stifled it. Her father had said to die like a man, die like her mother had, without fear. But the Beast did not crush her with its huge, coarse hands just yet. it walked slowly  past her, and she was transfixed by its movement. The Beast reached the opening of the cave. it was touched by the warm sunlight, and a low rumble of pain emanated from it. it reached upward and dug its hands into the rocky ceiling, then pulled downward. The girl watched, and then realised what it was doing. She ran toward the Beast and threw her fists at its feet wildly.

“Stop! We are both going to die in here!” She screamed. it took no notice. She dug her fingernails into its thick, black-grey skin. She bit it. The cave shook and dust fell from the ceiling. A boulder fell outside the cave and blocked the light. The dark red veins of the Beast throbbed from the exertion. At last she stopped her vicious assault and collapsed. A tear slipped from her white-clouded eye and she immediately, instinctively,  wiped it away, hoping that no one had seen. The mountain was groaning and parts of the cave had already fallen. She looked upward and it was already looking down, at her. it had heard the sound of the tear. it was a sweet, delicate sound, but shockingly loud. it pulled its hands from the ceiling, reached down toward the girl’s face and touched it, lightly. She pulled away, punching the hand. But it was too late.

It had felt the wetness of her cheek. It had not been lying to itself. She had cried. And as the mountain collapsed around them both, the Beast cried also. Crimson blood seeped from its skin, dripping and falling to the shaking floor. The girl watched in horror. it’s sightless craters, now filled with blood, stared at her in desperation that she could not understand, hoping beyond hope that she would someday know truth. Then its blood became a river, pouring from gaping wounds that had opened themselves. And the floor of the cavern was covered with its sticky, foul-smelling blood. And then the Beast fell, almost crushing the girl but stopping itself, rooting its hands into the ground, locking its arms in place. Then its head drooped as the last of its lifeblood seeped out of it.

There was near silence, for a brief moment, as the eye of the storm passed. And then the mountain fell, and boulder after boulder pounded the huge, broad, rough back of the Beast, as the porcelain girl hid beneath it.

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