The Arcadian Press

The Beast of the Mountain

A dark cave with a light shining through it.

The Beast of the Mountain

By Emma Romano

The cave was dark, dank, and quiet. So quiet, Luzia could hear the echoing drip, drip of water from a stalactite in the back of the cave. She should light a torch, but she didn’t have the confidence to do it. Legends of the townsfolk down the mountain told of a monster in these caves. But these caves were where she needed to be. Treasure, it seemed, made humans go crazy with dreams of riches. Crazy because those with treasure could control those with none.

As Luzia crept quietly through the cave, she kept her hands in front of her to keep from running into wayward stalagmites. Her feet inched across the floor, slipping on loose pebbles. Her black hair kept slipping from its braid onto her face, obscuring her vision and causing her to think she was seeing enormous shadows in every corner.

She shook herself, trying to banish the ominous chill in her bones from the damp cave.  Her boots didn’t offer much protection from the cold of the rock beneath her.

Her tunic got caught on something sticking out of the wall to her left, and she halted to a stop with an “Oof.” As she tried to tug herself free, she heard a voice. A quiet whisper.

Luzia,” it called. She jolted! It sounded familiar, a little like…Varin. Varin was in here with her!

“Varin,” Luzia whispered. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you,” he whisper-yelled back. “What are you doing here? And where are you?”

“I’m looking for the treasure that Thomis told us about. I’m stuck on a piece of rock

somewhere to your left, I think. I can’t really tell. It’s too dark.”

She could feel Varin coming closer to her spot as he said, “I can’t believe you actually listened to him. Weren’t you worried about the monster in these caves? Crella told me that it guards the treasure, and eats thieves alive if they try to steal its loot.” That was Varin, always cautious, even when he had a chance to help his father feed his family. It was both stupid and sweet.

Varin finally found Luzia and helped unhook her from her rocky prison. “Thanks,” Luzia huffed.

“Now that you’re free, let’s get back down to town. There’s no reason to risk your life for something so shallow as treasure,” Varin pleaded.

“But I can’t. If I’m able to find the treasure, Mira won’t have to…” She stopped immediately and covered her mouth.

“Mira won’t have to what?” he asked cautiously. Luzia shook her head and Varin put his hand on her shoulder and turned her towards him in the dark.

“Luzia,” he glowered, “Mira won’t have to do what?”

“She-she won’t have to go to Capilla for the apprenticeship and leave us,” she managed to choke out.

“What!” Varin yelled. His fingers clenched with angry surprise.

A growl wafted through the cavern. Luzia’s blood turned icy with fear. She and Varin slowly turned around and saw a giant, smoky eye staring at them, somehow illuminated in

the cave. Luzia had a feeling that they had found the Beast.

Both Luzia and Varin went into a shocked state of silence, not wanting to wake the Beast even more. Another deep grumble resounded through the cave. The rocks began tumbling as the Beast slowly got up.

Varin’s eyes widened with fear as he yelled, “Luzia! Run!” and pushed her in the direction of the entrance. Luzia stumbled a bit from the rocky ground as he pushed her, but she regained her balance and took off at a run. She looked back to be sure that Varin was following her, only to realize that he had stayed behind to face off against the Beast. Luzia froze in place, contemplating the decision she’d have to make. She rolled her eyes and took off running towards Varin.

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