Golden eyes flash in the darkness and suddenly a blurred silhouette rushes across the land. The faint shadow is bounding across an open plain, with amazing agility. After it has traversed a while, it paces itself and until it climbs onto a log that overlooks the form of a hare litter it has been watching. Moonlight bathes the land as the clouds float along to reveal the shining, melancholy moon.
The thickets glow olive green, while the shrivelled up grass shine gold. There’s a soft rustle and then a flash of black and brown can be seen amid agitated squeaks and grunts. Then a soft crunch can be heard. The golden eyes flash once more and then a vivid pink tongue can be seen, shining with lush red blood.
In the moonlight the black jaguar moves through the open fields, and can still taste the tough flesh of the hare that it has just eaten. It slinks and weaves its way through the clusters of thickets before it stops; the wind changes. Its rosettes, like deathly black buds painted on its black fur, are faint but are still visible in the light.
The magnificent feline scans its surroundings slowly before it turns towards a perfectly round boulder and stalks straight into the earth. It walks onto a case of stone steps that lead into a cavity carved into the crust of the earth. The caverns have jagged rocks jutting out from the ceiling and the floor. The tunnels wind and twist around, creating a complex labyrinth to confuse and despair any who dare wander inside.
This does not disconcert the jaguar though, who indifferently strolls down, deeper and deeper into the tunnels. Around it water drips down from the surface, keeping the caverns cool and moist. The jaguar stops to drink from a pool of chilly water that had been filtered through the earth.
There is a sound – a rock falling because of movement. In a second the giant cat turns around to pounce on the thing that made it. Underneath the body of the black jaguar is a whimpering creature.
The creature is the size of a young child, but does not have the appeal of one: their face is square-shaped and has an unnatural yellow pigmentation; their nose is warty and stubby; so are the fingers on the hands that are held up in front of their squat and stout body. Their tiny, murky brown eyes stare up into the golden pair of the predator, pleading with them.
“Please spare me…” they manage to whisper through chattering teeth, most of which are blackened and chipped.
A low rumble can be heard emitting from the back of the cat’s throat. It feels the creature’s fear and narrows its eyes at them. Then it moves back and away from the creature, who exhales with relief. They continue walking down the tunnel that they were in, the small creature trailing behind the black jaguar.
Then a strong, crisp, womanly voice breaks through the shadows.
“Eli… what happened to you? You seem so very flustered.”
Eli, a member of the Tollin race, rubs his hands together, and breathes onto them for warmth before answering.
“M-Master… I was scouting near the marshlands, as you ordered…” he says in a weak, croaky voice before continuing with a gulp, “When I saw… I saw…”
“What did you see?”
“It was so bright and pure! An angel of the Creator it was, master.”
Finally the jaguar and Eli stop right outside a large round cavern. The rock walls are glistening with water and here and there, sprouting out of the earth, are fluorescent stones of many rainbow shades.
That same womanly voice calls out from the far opposite of the cave.
“Welcome back, Chet…”
The straight, perfectly white teeth of a smile can be seen quite clearly despite the lack of light.
Both jaguar and minion bow deeply, the animal’s snout brushing the ground, before they approach their master. Eli stands shivering and hunchbacked next to Chet, who sits calmly before Sombre. She is sitting on a jet stone throne, her arms resting loosely on the armrests, but her clenched fingers on the edge of the throne reveal otherwise.
“Now tell me, Eli, where did you see this angel?”
“I saw it sometime after midday, master; it floated down from the heavens and almost touched the earth at the marshlands to the north of here. It was of such a bright, pure colour that it was hard to look at it clearly.”
“What did it do?”
“N-Nothing, master; it came down and then it returned to the sky.”
The woman stands up and walks down towards them. In the dim light they can just make out her hood cloak of a midnight shade, where stars shine relentlessly, her pale skin and her long, bright blue, jagged nails. Sombre pulls back her hood and looks down at the two with glazed, black irises. As she does this, six bright blue flames spring from her back, and converge underneath her chin.
“Chet, you will find that angel and bring him back for an interrogation.”
Once again, the jaguar bows deeply, before turning tail and bounding off back to the surface, while Eli stands looking down at his shoeless feet, as nervous as a little boy standing before his mother, awaiting his punishment.