"They are everywhere, those creatures."
--August Derleth, The House on Curwen Street
"It was over his shoulder, and indistinctly, that he first a face: a little evil wedged-shaped face, looking at him from a hole. When he turned around and confronted it, the thing had vanished."
--Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
On Narrak Island, which was the most northernmost of the Orrim Archipelago, lived a Gerdin. She was a small, very slender woman, about four feet in height, with a delicate brown face, golden feline eyes, and long silvery-white hair. She also had retractable feline claws, which was great, especially when you were catching a partridge in midair or climbing a tall tree to escape a ferocious bear or wild boar.
Her name was Kes Allyntahl and she lived alone in a log cabin with only her thoughts and her cat, Miss Tabitha, for company.
No one knew she lived in that wild isolated place and Kes preferred to keep it that way. She valued her precious peace and solitude above everything else.
She had fled the main island to escape her numerous nosy relatives and neighbors. They were a snoopy, conservative lot, who frowned on any kind of eccentricity. They were always shaking their heads at her preferring wilderness pursuits to homely domestic ones. They tried interfering with her rustic life because they thought it wasn't "proper" or were envious of her freedom and woodland knowledge.
In the forest around her cabin, Kes found plenty to supply her table and storehouse. She gathered edible plants and berries, and hunted game with poisoned darts and obsidian-tipped arrows. She greatly relished the meat of wild boar and deer.
She also fished. Fish were numerous in Narrak's rivers and streams. Sometimes Kes didn't need a rod or line; she just scooped them out by hand. That was how great the fishing was.
One afternoon in late September, Kes was in the pantry, making some mussel soup.
Although she had bunches of wild onions and snippets of different herbs, Kes found she was out of seaweed, so she put on a leather cloak and a reed hat, and set off for the beach.
A big storm had occurred last night and may have washed up a whole lot of kelp. While Kes searched the shore for this seasonal soup stock, Miss Tabitha searched for things to sniff and paw.
As time passed, Kes was getting rather flustered. There wasn't a single frond of kelp to be found anywhere. It was all just stones, broken shells, and smelly dead crabs. She walked further on up the beach, further than she ever went before.
Skirting a rock cliff, she saw ahead of her a grassy headland on which stood a small wooden house.
Kes stared at it in astonishment. That's odd, she thought. This island's supposed to be uninhabited; there shouldn't be any people here.
Kes climbed up a steep trail to the front porch. Then she peered in through the front window. Between the blotches of lichen and mildew, she saw a curved oak bench with coat and hat hooks, and a flight of stairs.
Cautiously, she tried the door. It was unlocked. Stepping inside, Kes looked around warily.
The house looked abandoned; the only sign that someone had been there in the recent past was that nearly all the furnishings were missing. Even the wallpaper had been stripped.
Wondering, Kes started up the stairs. She wasn't sure what she might find up there. A house standing alone in eerie desolation was puzzling. Some people might have turned back at this point, but mysterious things fascinated Kes.
At the top of the stairway, she encountered a door. Kes wasn't certain what she expected to find on the other side, but after seeing the downstairs, it would probably be a disappointingly bare and boring room.
She was very much surprised when she pushed open the door. Instead of an empty room, it was a shadowy forest of huge oaks and pines.
She was even more surprised when she went through the door and turned around. The door was built into the trunk of an enormous oak.
After a few minutes of memorizing the clearing, Kes began following a narrow path into the crowded trees.
She didn't think it would hurt if she did some exploring; besides, there didn't seem to be anything dangerous lurking about. Miss Tabitha didn't act skittish or shaky.
However, everything changed when she came to another clearing. The sky suddenly became a mass of rolling black clouds. She heard thunder and saw glowing forks of blue lightning.
A cold wind began to howl and torrents of rain came lashing down. Kes, with Miss Tabitha in the lead, ran back into the trees. The wind tore the hat from her head and tried to rip her cloak away. Kes shuddered and wrapped her cloak tighter around her shoulders. As she ran further into the forest, she thought it was strange that the storm came on so suddenly and unexpectedly.
In a brilliant flash of lightning, Kes glimpsed windows and part of a tiled roof. Running closer, she saw it was a small stucco cottage. Hoping someone was home, Kes started to beat on the door. It opened with a slight creak.
In the dim light, Kes saw she was in a rough-timbered room with worn but elegant furniture. Shedding her dripping cloak, Kes went to make a fire. Since the furniture was surprisingly well preserved, she lacked the heart to destroy such fine antiques.
After a thorough search she finally found what she was looking for—a gloomy cellar filled with old moldering furniture. Kes splintered some decrepit chairs, and then carried the kindling upstairs. Soon she got a fire going.
After she built up the fire enough, she pushed a chair before the hearth and sat down. Miss Tabitha leapt into her lap and curled herself into a warm ball.
I'll stay here for now, thought Kes. Then as soon as this storm blows over, I'll go back home. She then closed her eyes. Lulled by the fire's warmth and Miss Tabitha's soothing purr, Kess drifted off into sleep.
Suddenly, Kes's eyes snapped open. The storm had stopped, and the fire had gone out. Miss Tabitha was wide-awake, bristling and hissing.Kes turned in the direction of her cat's glare. All the hair on her head stood up like the quills on a porcupine. In a patch of moonlight was a mass of shadows with bright glowing eyes.
She watched transfixed as the shadows slowly shaped themselves into people. They were all tall with sharp, pointed faces and large catlike eyes. Their hands were long and thin with curved silvery claws.
"Who… who… who are you?" she stammered.
"We are the Lontaqas," said the one wearing the steel-rimmed spectacles, "and we've been waiting for you."
"Waiting for me?" said Kes, holding her cat close. "But we just met."
"Yes, but we have been expecting you for a very long time. You have come at a most opportune time. We are about to have a holiday feast and we hope you will attend."
There's something fishy here, she thought. Why would they want to invite me to their party—someone they just met.? Not unless they were going to do something really awful.
"But I can't stay," she said, slowly getting up.
"Sounds great," murmured Kes, trying to sound calm. She could feel Miss Tabitha trembling in her arms.
Miss Tabitha leaped out of her arms and headed for the front door.
"But why?" the man asked
"I'm not dressed properly," Kes replied, backing away.
"Oh, but you don't have to go," insisted the man. "We have plenty of dresses for you to choose from."
"No thanks," said Kes. "I have to go now."
Then she turned and ran. The Lontaqas, with bristling hair and biting grins, swarmed close behind. She felt clawing against her back, and then numerous hands seized hold of her hair and shirt.
As she twisted free, darkness descended on everything and she found herself, to her astonishment, in her own bed. Yet another surprise greeted her when she finally got up. Her hat and cloak were missing.
This is the last time anyone saw her.
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