Lacertine, a Lizardman was the character of a fellow player. I incorporated him in this story with his permission.
The Flight of Lacertine
That evening we ate as a trio, it was the first time I’d had both the Doc & Sister Fister’s company together. It was afterwards Doc Baroque enquired,
“Do you play billiards by any chance? A little like your snooker or pool”.
“I played a little pool when I was at college,” I lied. In fact I’d played a lot of pool when I’d been at college. I’d been the campus champion two years running, while studying & had supplemented my meagre funds while a student hustling the local pool halls.
“Close enough. Here, come with me.” And with that he led me across the study to one of the book cases, moved a couple of old volumes to reveal a handle. He pulled down the handle, & the whole bookcase swung open. Revealing a staircase. He led me down the staircase into another room, decorated in a similar classical style, wall to wall bookcase, juxtaposed with modern computer or electronic devices. He pulled back a dust sheet revealing a large billiard table. As he began to set up the table, he began to speak.
“Here we are, the cellars, & our nerve centre. It’s not often we have visitors & even rarer to find one who might like a game.” He indicated the table, “This is where we keep all our research, & documentation, my father writings were just the first of our collection. They’re over there” he said nodding to the furthest wall, “Similar works, though not nearly as complete as my fathers were discovered in 1945 in Nag Hemmadi. Those ones over there, we rescued from Oparnplatz in 1933 from the hands of the Nazi’s. There’s some extremely old Chinese works over there that we had smuggled out of China after the Cultural Revolution, and some early masonic stuff we acquired during the chaos of the Civil war in the America’s. They’re all copies & without the originals we can’t fully prove their authenticity, but the content appears to be genuine enough, & if it is, then some of the content at least would be contemporary with the library at Alexandria. There’s some early Persian codices over there. And this little lot,” he paused chuckling to himself, “comes from the Vatican archives” he grinned “We broke in ourselves for those ones back in the early 1900’s. Was shocking how they were being cared for. It’s incredibly diverse, but it all has one thing in common, it’s esoteric and has proven to be invaluable in our little venture here.” He smiled. “It’s all been archived, documented & digitised so we can cross reference one cultures’ mythology against anothers. Fascinating stuff”.
I stood dumb-founded. “Shouldn’t this be made available to the world, the knowledge you have at your fingertips…..” I trailed off.
“Whatever for? I mean this is all information that was being kept from the public for whatever reason. I like to think of it as preserving it. IF it were to ever go into the public domain, you think it would bring some sort of harmony? No, it would just give people more to argue & start wars over, not that people need an excuse to have one of those. & you think scholars & academics could actually ever agree and come to some sort of conclusion? That would be a first in mankind’s entire history. Besides, “ he grinned again “it gives Cecilia & I our edge, our specialised services aren’t just about pure strength & might you know, there’s a great deal of intelligence that is often also needed, and stealth.”
With that he indicated the billiard table, “You can break” he said. Despite my mis-spent youth in the pool halls of home, I was soundly beaten, my only consolation was that my youth had at least given me an eye for the game, but the rules were so far from pool or snooker, that I was always going to be at a disadvantage.
As we played billiards, more Brandy flowed and the evening turned into night. It was then Doc, only slightly inebriated began to open up once again about his & Sister Fister’s adventures…
I told him I’d read about the Zomborg in the afternoon, & enquired as to what had come of him.
“Ah, The Zomborg, and that Supreme Hero City,” Doc chuckled, “Ghastly place, although, I must say not due its inhabitants. That Lizard fellow we met there, Lacertine I believe, not our first encounter with him, if I recall.”
I looked at Doc silently, in the hope that’d he’d go on.
“Yes, Lacertine. I don’t recall the exact date, but would have been the mid 1800’s. Cecelia & I were in South America, in the Andes or somewhere, the old Incan territories in modern day Equador & Peru, or perhaps it was the Aztecs, I don’t really recall to tell the truth. We were infact there as we were looking for some additional material for our little library here to tell the truth.”
He paused to draw on his cigar, & leant to the side a little leaning on his billiard cue.
“Anyway, we were deep in jungle, hundreds of miles from anywhere you might consider civilisation, or indeed anywhere where man had even set foot for centuries if ever, seeking out an ancient temple, & we’d become lost. We had long since run out of any of our supplies, and were reliant on hunting the indigenous wildlife merely to survive. We’d settled down not far from a large swamp, in the hope that the following day we would be able to press on with our quest. However, that was not to be. That night, we were taken unawares & set upon by a tribe of amphibian men, captured and taken to their settlement.
We were held captive there for perhaps a week. We were not mistreated other than being held against our will and from what we could gather were for all intent and purpose a peaceful species.”
“It’s a shame, the same couldn’t be said for all the inhabitants of the vicinity.” Interjected Cecilia.
“Yes, quite.” Said the Doc.
“Those evil Lizard people.” She interrupted, “They were dreadful. You see, it transpires that these Amphibians were for all practical purpose slaves to another tribe of Lizard men who’d ruled this area since before man. The old tales of you hear tell of about Quetzacoatl and the like infact had their origins in the Reptiles. IT was them that ruled the region, it was them the Inca’s and Aztec’s worshipped. They had no more status than the poor amphibians, it’s just that human history has put them down as myths and legends. But they were and are as real as you or I. The sacrifices you hear about before humans finally abandoned the region were to these Lizard ‘gods’. & the lizards would keep taking the tributes and sacrifices to as the main part of their diet!”
“Indeed,” said Doc, taking over the tale again, “I was just getting to that. As I was saying we were held captive there for perhaps a week. It was at day break though, that we were awoken by a commotion outside. A platoon of the Lizards had arrived for tribute from the subjugated amphibians, & it was us that was offered to them! They’d kept us to offer as the next sacrifice to save their own hides.
“And so we were unceremoniously marched through the forest for a day or two where until we arrived at the lizards’ main city, a well-defended stepped pyramid deep in the mountains surrounded by other Lizard dwellings.
We were hauled before the Lizard Empress & her Praetorian gaurds. “Humansss, yess” she said “It is many ssun cycless sssince we have dined on human flesh. Thesse sspecimens will do very nicccely. Take them to my sssister, the high priessstess, they will make exxcelllent sssacrificces to bring back the moon in sseven daysss”
We were locked away in cells deep in bowels of the pyramid, more like some reptilian larder I suppose.”
Sister Fister again took over the story, “It was dark, dank, humid and all but silent down there. It the air was stale, and stank from years of squalor. It took a while for eyes to become accustomed to the dim lighting, especially from the damage they’d received in the Zigonian space craft. Our hearing on the other hand didn’t need the same time to adjust. I could hear a constant dripping noise from within the cell, & the scurrying & squeaking of rats or some other such vermin. We sat mostly in silence, but did talk together about our predicament. We knew that we would be held for a week before the next new moon & presumed that was when we would be sacrificed. It was then that a third unknown voice interrupted.
“Your prethumption ith correct” it interjected. “You will indeed be thacrifcthed to ensure the return of the moon to the night thky.”
“Who said that? Who is there?” Doc asked, startled, it was still too dark to make out, “What are you doing here? Show yourself” & instinctively he readied himself to fight.
“Have no fear,” the voice said, “I will do you no harm. I am Lathertine and I am altho a prithoner here, although I know your fate will come much thooner than mine.”
He shuffled forward out of the gloom but it was still too dark to really make out who we were talking too.
“If you reach over your head againthst the wall there, you’ll find thome lichen. Thcrath it.”
We did as we were bid, and along with a most revolting aroma that made the stench of the rest of our cell smell comparatively pleasant, it began to glow, dimly to start with, then it slowly increased its luminosity until we were bathed in a light comparable to dusk. It was only then we could make our company out. It was another of the Lizards, however this one had a shock of blonde hair on his head & top lip.
“Itsth a natural defenth mechanithm of the plant to give off that pungent thmell when itsth dithturbed, but a thide effect ith that it altho glowth, be careful though the gath it gives off ith highly flamable. My nocturnal vision ith rather acute compared to you apeth, tho I have no need of it, but I imagine it benefitsth you.”
We eyed him somewhat suspiciously, but thanked him.”
Doc then again took over the tale.
“Yes, we talked for many hours into the night. Well I say that, he mostly talked, we mostly listened. He explained firstly why he was also a prisoner. The lizard people live in a very rigid militaristic matriarchal social structure, with one queen who will lay vast batches of eggs. If the eggs are then buried near the swamp and the mud is kept wet, it will produces male off-spring. However, one or two eggs in every generation, once buried, the mud is allowed to dry, & kept warm in the sun. This produces female off-spring. One queen can produce thousands of children and this is how they control their population numbers. I suppose much like a nest of ants or hive of bees. The vast majority of the males, once hatched are raised on their normal flesh diet, but all the females, and a select few males are returned to the queen who produces a milky like substance which these few are raised on until adolescence. This stimulates the growth of wings in these few, and these mature into the patrician ruling elite, the Queens’ Praetorian Guard, the army officers & the High Priestess. While the rest, exclusively male are the soldiers, and slave masters, and one or two are selected as shaman.”
He paused to pour some more brandy, silently offering Sister Fister & I some while he lit another cigar.
“However, very, very occasionally this lactated substance can cause a recessive gene in the infant lizard to be triggered, & instead of their wings being stimulated, it stimulated hair growth. And this is what had happened to this fellow Lacertine, so although he was of royal lizard lineage, he was essentially classed by his people as a throwback, & freak, so had been locked away in the cells since his childhood.”
As our evening rolled on, the Doc & Sister continued to talk about their conversation with Lacertine & the Lizard society. How their culture was built around their worship of the sun, moon & stars, & how they were required by the Priestess & Shaman to make sacrifices to the moon monthly to ensure its return to the night sky, & how the Shaman in particular would use the intestines from their victims to predict future events. In their ancient past, there had been an uprising of their human slaves, which had been brutally quashed. Those that had survived had fled. So for many generations the Lizardmen had made do with sacrificing their Amphibian slaves, however, apparently their flesh is not quite as succulent as human.
“The following day, or at least after some semi-restful sleep, the true passing of time was hard to tell in that place” Doc continued, “We were awoken by Lacertine offering us some food. Not having eaten for the best part of the previous day we readily accepted it. “What is it?” I enquired.
Lacertine replied, smiling “Fresh rat, captured thith morning!” clearly proud of his culinary prowess.
Cecilia & I glanced at each other momentarily, “Mmmn, good. Tastes a little like chicken,” she lied.
We ate anyway. And the conversation turned with our new friend turning to the possibility of escape. To begin with he was quite reticent, insisting that this prison was inescapable, & even if we were to get out of the cell, the twisting maze of passages meant we’d never see the light of day again. Besides, we as puny humans would be no match for even the weakest of Lizards. It was then I made a wager with him. I explained the rules of arm wrestling to him & said if Cecilia, a ‘mere human female’ could beat him, then he must accept to help us escape. He eyed us suspiciously, then looking at Cecilia’s apparently feeble frame accepted.
They settled down to wrestle, & of course Cecilia won. Lacertine was astonished, and somewhat taken aback. Not understanding how a human could beat him. We explained about our abduction & what had happened to us.
Reluctantly, he agreed to help us & together we conspired to escape. It transpired that the day before we were to be sacrificed we would be transferred to the preparation room where the rituals required to cleanse us would be undergone, & that would be the best time to attempt to escape.
So all we could do was sit & wait for a few days. We passed the time exchanging stories, us about our adventures, he about the traditions & legends of the Lizardmen, & the great army the queen had been laying for many seasons now with plans to reconquer the continent with.
Finally the day came, a single guard entered, clearly not expecting any resistance from humans, but he was no match for the three of our combined strengths & we quickly over-powered him. Lacertine donned his uniform & we quickly exited.
Lacertine led us through what seemed to be miles of twisting corridors. One thing I will say is he was right about was that we would never have hoped to find an exit without his assistance. Eventually he turned to us signally us to be quiet, & he approached a door into a large chamber. Apparently, this was the preparation chamber. Lacertine indicated we needed to slip passed silently, but Cecilia hissed between her teeth,
“No. We have to get in there into the hatching chamber he told us about. We have to destroy the eggs. If we don’t she’ll continue to grow a massive army & take over the whole of South America, & then God knows what next.”
She was right. Lacertine & I looked at each other, nodded & burst into the High Priestesses chamber. With her were two Shamen, a Lizard captain, & two more guards. This wasn’t going to be an easy fight, but it was too late, we were committed. We did at least have surprise on our side & we eventually overcame them. Both Cecilia and I sustained some serious burns, & Lacertine himself was badly cut across his chest & what I can only imagine was the Lizard equivalent of bruising. We took a few minutes to gather ourselves & breath. Fortunately for Cecilia & I, our rapid healing kicked in & our burns began to repair.
We made our way into the hatching chamber. The sight before us was astounding, hundreds upon hundreds of what I can only describe as nests made out of damp mud. Each contained half buried, between two to five eggs, and each egg, through its semi translucent leathery shell, you could clearly see a lizard embryo. Once again we could smell the pungent aroma from the luminous lichen. It was then I had an idea. “Quickly,” I said, “The lichen, get as much as you can glowing.” Cecilia, Lactertine & I busied ourselves, agitating the lichen so it gave off light, & clouds of the noxious, smelly gas. Very soon the room was bathed in enough light so as to be like a well light modern room, and we were almost over powered by the revolting stench. We left the room, & I gathered up one of the dis-guarded Lizard fire sticks. I hurled it into the hatching chamber. It worked, the gas instantly ignited into a fireball, pretty much torching the entire batch. I grinned at Cecilia. “There, that should put pay to that little lot.”
We left the Priestess’ preparation room each of us taking a firestick, Lacertine once again leading the way. Both Cecilia & my burns had all but healed. The same couldn’t be said for Lacertine, he was rapidly losing blood from his injury.
He eventually took us to a final room.
“The only way out isth through here I’m afraid. It’th the Queenth, throne room though. Thith ithn’t going to be pretty.” He said.
“On three”, I said. We braced ourselves, “Deep breaths, one, two, three…” & we burst in on the throne room. There she stood in front of her throne surrounded by her Praetorian Guards, the Elite of the Lizard army, two more soldiers were in attendance along with an amphibian slave. The Queen hissed, but it was too late, we were already upon the guards, surprise once again was our ally. We were at least this time armed, & the two soldiers were quickly defeated, which helped even the odds, but these Praetorians were strong & cunning. A long fight ensued. We managed to overpower three of them, but in doing so both Cecilia & Lacertine had been knocked unconscious. That left myself against the last guard. I was exhausted, & he I circled one another, looking for an opening to attack. & then I saw my chance, the big lizard, dropped his guard just fractionally, & I hurled myself at him. My fire stick caught him cleanly in the face, & he was out cold.
Just as I finished him off though, I felt a searing pain in my left shoulder – the Queen had come at me from behind sinking her claws into me, simultaneously she hissed & I let out a scream.
“SSSsssss. You think you can esssscape human? I think not. SSSSsss”, she hissed at me insidiously.
“I think I can.” I yelled back, & with my right arm, I grabbed her wrist, & pulled out her talons from my shoulder. In one movement I turned, still holding her arm. There was a loud crack as the bones in her forearm broke. This time it was her turn to yell out in pain. The amphibian lashed out with his tentacles & whipped her across the throat, wrapping it around neck. He squeezed the breath from her & she collapsed, unconscious to the floor.
I looked at my saviour, & thanked him. It was then I heard his voice, in my head. He was a telepath.
“We must be quick. Come with me”. He took hold of Lacertine, I took Cecilia, & he led me out. Night was setting, “we have but one night before this is discovered. I will take you to my people. There you will be safe for a while at least,” I again heard in my head.
I quietly we left the Ziggurat, & silently crept out of the Lizards town, carefully avoiding the few remaining Lizards that were still awake.
He led me though the jungle, Cecilia came around, although she had sustained some serious injuries. He & I took turns in carrying the limp body of Lacertine.
“He will recover in time,” I heard again, “but it will not be safe in this region for sometime now. The Queen will desire revenge. She in Empress of not just this Lizard tribe, but all the Lizard towns in this area. She will gather an Army & hunt you three down for this slight.”
He took us to his village, this time not as prisoners. It turns out his people were healers, & mystics. He explained to their chief the events, & as Lacertine had rebelled against the reptiles was now a fugitive. The chief consented to his people healing Lacertine, & by morning he was all but repaired, save for a wound in his upper arm, which was deeply infected.
I sat with their chief, him silently speaking in my head, “You three must leave” he told me, “I have word that the Queen has already raised a force to capture you and they are headed this way.”
“But what about you?” I enquired out loud.
“We will fight them off as best we can. Too long have my people been subservient to the reptiles, but no longer. We will buy you a little time for you escape, but at a great price. This will be my peoples last stand.”
I looked at him dumbstruck. “You would sacrifice yourselves for us?” I asked.
“Not only are my people healers & telepaths, but we are clairvoyant as well. Our time has come. This is our fate.”
“Then all I can say is thank you.” I replied, “Although that seems utterly inadequate”
Again I heard in my head, “No need to thank me my friend. It is foreseen, our destiny. One of my people will leave with to guide you to safety. The one who you escaped with last night.”
And with that, he left. I went back to Cecilia & Lacertine & explained what was to happen.
We gathered our things, & the Amphibian, now a free man led us away through the jungle. We headed north & travelled for many days. Eventually we came to the coast & a small town, at last something Cecilia & I recognised as civilisation.
“This is where our paths part my brother”, the amphibian said to me. “You must return to your lands from here, I will take Lacertine further north. There is a new country there, the land of California I believe you people call it. Many of your people travel their now seeking a yellow metal from the ground. I foresee one day a great city will be founded where he will be more accepted amongst your people. He has his own destiny, now. I am the last of my people, but after I am gone, in more than 1200 moon cycles the Lizards will rise again. It is his destiny to help prepare your people for their return.”
“Thank you” I said, “Thank you for everything you and your people have done for us, if ever Cecilia & I can help you, we are forever in your debt.”
“We are not destined to meet again my friend, but thank you for your company too.”
Cecilia & I turned to Lacertine to say goodbye, I took his hand & he winced. It was clear the infection had gone but had left his arm weakened and damaged.
“Here” I said, “take this, I don’t have the slightest intention of needing it on my homeward journey, & have a spare at home. Your need is greater than mine.”
& I unbuckled my arm support & gave it to him. With that we parted, Lacertine & the Amphibian made their way across land to America. Cecilia & I made passage back home.”
Doc reached for another cigar, & offering me one, enquired,
“Another frame of Billiards?”