Even in the north there are many nightmares that will bring every man to his end. I’ve killed black Tsheemarocs. They’re as long as two men, almost like a snake, but fly quick like the birds of legend, the lucky swallows who abandoned the emptiness of time. I’ve seen their beaks pierce three men at once, killing them and carrying them away like they weighed nothing. Quills over their body wound everyone they touch, poisoning them into paralysis, the spikes on their tails skewering anyone left standing, so even a horde of men often falls against just one.
Doomed is the man who finds himself in the path of their summer swarm. Many hundreds gather and fill the sky, picking off every living thing in their path, large or small, killing everything as sure as a lava flow.
But they aren’t the worst of it. Their swarms attract the Gobahr, invincible creatures who feed upon them, striking into their frenzies to catch one and toy with it, breaking each of its bones one by one, shivering with pleasure at the snap and crunch. Powerful and muscular, they can run on all fours or tower above it all on hind legs, their hard shells protecting them from any attack and giving them blunt ends to hammer their prey into jelly. When the swarm lifts and departs, the Gobahr terrorize the land they were lured into, doing to men what they’d hoped to do with more Tsheemarocs.
In the emptiness of time, these aren’t even the worst monsters. The trick is to find lands where these things do not live, because once they have you in their sights, you’re dead. There’s one monster called a Rankrip that is as big as a city. By the time you see it on the horizon, you cannot outrun it. It treads over the city and lies down on top of it, the acids under its belly melting every creature, seeping through every building. It just sits their digesting and suffocating the people underneath. I was there when it took Harkamet. I only escaped because I was already an hour or so away, heading for the Kelsmann hills.
You’ve heard me speak of the thin line of luck. Everyone thinks you follow luck until the big payoff. In the city you see the foragers on the streets, searching for that abandoned purse or pleasing every member of the gang that runs the place, if only to be invited in so they could feed off their brothers. But their thin line gives them a scrap of food for days until no more scraps forces them to eat the dry grass and animal dung. At the end of the thin line of luck, it doesn’t blossom, it disappears. This is the fickle and tantalizing nature of it, and at the end of it is where you find your fiber, drawn and twisted to its uttermost where it either holds and you live on, or it breaks.
The lines of luck are devilishly short in the south, where every day presents a new horror as bad as the last. I sometimes wonder why it hasn’t devoured itself by now, but it somehow persists, and when I found my beloved Enta about to be ruined, set before the jaws of evil, I snatched her, never looking back, and carried her far north where nightmares prevail, though few that I, Mallocrest, cannot manage. I often wonder if the man I stole her from still pursues us, but one thing is not hard in the emptiness of time—any man can disappear.
Imagine my regret, when at the end of our flight, finally taking a rest among the Cagarthet nomads, the sun darkened with the Tsheemaroc swarm.