Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Here Be Monsters


Setara and her genie, Basit, meet many interesting mythological creatures, but only two should be included in the category Monsters. Here’s a bit about the role each monster plays in Setara’s Genie.

Azhi Dahaka

Azhi is a dragon demon who’s supposed to be dead, but comes back to life a little bit ticked off because his blood was used by the Great Vizier hundreds of years before to create a breed of fire-breathing, flying horses.

From the Encyclopedia Mythica (
A storm demon from Iranian mythology. He steals cattle and brings harm to humans. It is a snake-like monster with three heads and six eyes who also personifies the Babylonian oppression of Iran. The monster will be captured by the warrior god Thraetaona and placed on the mountain top Dermawend. In a final revival of evil, it will escape its prison, but at the end of time (fraso-kereti) it will die in the river of fire Ayohsust.

Even though this particular description includes multiple heads and pretty bad attitude, I also found an ancient bas relief that purports to be Azhi Dahaka. Decide what you will. A monster is a monster no matter how many heads he or she has.

Excerpt Featuring Azhi Dahaka

Setara rounded the bend in the tunnel and stopped dead in her tracks. Azizah and Kairav stood at one end of a huge cavern, heaving large stones as fast as they could. At the other end, about forty feet away, the strangest creature she’d ever seen was shooting jets of fire from its mouth. It had great bat-like wings that created a rush of wind each time the dragon stroked downward. It possessed four legs but had reared up and clawed at the air with the front set. Fangs at least six inches long lined the animal’s jaws. It seemed reptilian with its elongated head and scaly sides. However, it was huge by reptile standards, being more than twenty feet long and barely fit in the end of the cavern. Its scales rippled with colors—green, violet, orange, blue.

Basit flew around the cavern, attempting to outflank the creature. He began hurling balls of light from his fingertips. They didn’t appear to do anything other than annoy the beast, but the interruption did distract it from breathing fire at Azizah and Kairav. When it turned its head to shoot fire toward Basit, Azizah ran forward and threw another huge rock. It struck the beast’s head, knocking it against the wall.

It turned one last time and let out a loud roar that shook small stones off the walls. Then, it shrank rapidly to no more than ten feet long. With a single bound, it leaped into the tunnel on the far side of the cavern and was gone in a flash of purple and green.

Setara ran to Azizah, who dropped the stone she was just about to throw. Kairav and Basit joined them. Sheik ran in circles around the group, barking for all he was worth.

“Shush, Sheik. We can’t hear ourselves think.” Setara chastised the agitated dog. Sheik dropped to his belly panting from the excitement.

“What was that thing?” Setara looked at the grim faces of her friends.

“Azhi Dahaka,” Basit answered.

* * *

The Kraken

The Kraken is a fearsome beast. Yikes! Just look at that shot from an old movie. From Encyclopedia Mythica ( we learn that the Kraken isn’t a Greek myth at all. The good old Vikings claim the Kraken as their own.

In Norwegian sea folklore, the Kraken is an enormous sea monster which would sometimes attack ships and feed upon the sailors. It was supposed to be capable of dragging down the largest ships and when submerging could suck down a vessel by the whirlpool it created. It is part octopus and part crab, although others refer to it as a giant squid or cuttlefish.

To find something like the Kraken in Grecian myth, you have to look at Ceto the Sea Serpent (she appears in the Witches of Galdorheim series). In the legend of Perseus, Andromeda is chained to a rock to be fed to a sea monster. Not the Kraken. A sea monster.

Okay, kids. Have we got it straight now? However, what do we care where any legend begins or ends. I mash up myth, legend, and folklore to my heart’s content.

Excerpt Featuring the Kraken:

Basit quickly cast a floating spell on her. At water level, the waves prevented him from seeing very far, so he rose above the surface several feet to see what was going on. What he observed sent a cold chill down his spine.

“A kraken wrecked the boat. I don’t see...wait. There’s Kairav. Dolph should be below the surface if he transformed.”

The huge head of the kraken rose again and struck down on the last broken shreds of the dhow. The sea beast was enormous, its hide an ugly, splotchy gray, with tentacles whipping around its lumpy head. Giant eyes, placed on either side of a beak-like mouth, stared as unblinking as a shark. The creature destroyed the last remnants of the boat; then cast about, searching for any survivors.

Basit dropped back beside Setara and spelled them both invisible to the kraken but visible to each other. He didn’t want his mistress to panic if she couldn’t see him. He whispered just loud enough for her to hear. “Be quiet. When it leaves, I’ll spell you to shore.”

“No,” she whispered in return. “We can’t leave Dolph out here with that monster. We must find him first.”

Basit shook his head in frustration. He could not send her to shore once she had spoken her wishes to him. She had tied his magical hands.

“Very well. But be quiet until—”

The genie hesitated. The kraken had sunk below the surface. Was it gone? Or was it swimming toward them beneath the waves? Basit sank down and looked in all directions but saw nothing in the murky water. The kraken was so huge, it had stirred muck from the bottom and clouded the sea about them, but he could feel the water roiling from its movements. The beast still lurked nearby.

Basit rose to the surface again. The sight of Dolph clutched to one of the kraken’s tentacles while it smashed up and down on the surface struck terror in even his staunch heart. He turned to Setara. “Quick! How should I help?”

“Wait. I think Dolph can handle this.”

“You have more faith in him than I,” Basit responded with a grim frown.

The kraken writhed and twisted with Dolph hanging to its tentacle. It dove again, dragging Dolph down with him. The sea became still. Kairav made his way to their side, and Basit included him within the invisibility shield.

“Shouldn’t we do something?” Kairav asked as he floated nearby.

Setara said, “Not yet.”

“The boy might already be dead,” Basit said, frowning. Why was his mistress failing to send aid to Dolph? Again, he could not go against her spoken wishes.

* * *
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