Part 4: THE LAIR OF THE SIKLARIX
“Where am I? What terrible place is this?”, asked Hiriki, looking round at the gloomy desert where nothing seemed to grow except horrid, giant
cactuses covered with sharp steel spikes and the sand was littered with human bones.
“Be careful of those Cactii. Their prick is poisonous and kills instantly”, said the Goddess, “And be careful of the boiling quicksand and the two tailed scorpions, their bite is particularly deadly and painful”
“This is surely as near to hell as I have ever been. Why have you brought me here?”, moaned Hiriki.
“This is the desert of Ryell which lies to the far west of your country. Few travellers have ever reached this place and those who have have never returned”, explained the Goddess, “But don’t let that frighten you”.
“Why? Why have they never returned?”, asked Hiriki, already starting to tremble.
“Because this is the desert where the Siklarix lives. The Siklarix; the most ferocious, the most deadly and most fleet footed of all living creatures. Men call it “The teeth of the wind”. Once a Siklarix has scented its prey there is no way to escape from it, it moves as swiftly as the light of the stars and it can eat up a whole man in a few seconds”, the goddess said,”but do not be afraid” and pointing to a cave in the near distance she informed Hiriki, “That dark cave is the Siklarix’s lair and it is the Siklarix that you must defeat”.
“That cave is the mouth of death, why would I want to go into there if it is home to such a terrifying creature”, said Hiriki, slowly backing away.
“Because the Siklarix guards something of enormous power, the Flying Fire, which you must have if you are to have any hope of defeating Samegusha’s armies”, said the Goddess.
“But”, said Hiriki, “I am just an ordinary man. If this monster is so quick and ferocious then how can I hope to defeat it”.
“Challenge it to a race. The Siklarix will spare the life of anyone who can beat it in a race”, said the Goddess.
“But”, said Hiriki, “I thought that you said it was the fastest of all creatures?”
“Fast in some ways, slow in others”, said the Goddess, “You must trust me”.
“Slow in others? What does that mean?”, asked Hiriki but the Goddess refused to say anymore.
And so Hiriki had no choice but to do as the Goddess had commanded him. He called out in the direction of the Siklarix’s lair, “Siklarix, I challenge you to a race”.
Before he had even managed to finish his words the Siklarix had shot out of its cave like a bolt from a crossbow and was standing in front of him; a giant, ferocious half man and half reptile with red scaly skin and long sharp curved claws like cutlass blades upon his hands and feet and a long narrow mouth full of horrible, long, sharp curved teeth, that was constantly twitching,shivering and hopping from foot to foot because it found it impossible to stay still. “Good”, said the Siklarix, “Good and when I beat you, I will eat you”.
“What if I beat you?”, asked Hiriki.
The Siklarix laughed, “No living thing is as fast as I am, no streak of lightning, no hummingbirds wing. Men try to run and, out of pity, I sometimes stroll or hop upon one leg but it is futile, I am winged death, none can escape me”.
“You are very fast and it seems completely insane to me but I challenge you to a race”, said Hiriki, shaking his head in despair.
“Pick a finishing line”, said the Siklarix.
Hiriki looked round about him and he took his time because he was certain that he would soon be saying good bye to his life and in his head he was trying to think of some impossible finishing line that even an impossibly fleet-footed creature could never reach and then he saw the sun beginning to set upon the horizon, “That line over there”, he said, pointing to the Horizon, “The first to reach it wins”.
The Siklarix stared at the horizon and back at Hiriki, “That is too easy, do you not want to pick a finishing line that is farther away?”
Hiriki was astonished. The Siklarix, so fleet-footed and deadly, was also incredibly slow witted. “No”, said Hiriki, “I couldn’t manage to run any further than that. I’d probably collapse and die if I tried”.
“Well, I wouldn't want that”, grinned the Siklarix, “It would rob me of the pleasure
of killing you”.
Hiriki counted to three and they both started running at the same pace but then the Siklarix sped off like the desert wind into the distance and never came back, in fact it ran all the way around the world six times, chasing the horizon which it could never reach, because the line just kept moving further away from it, before growing so exhausted that it collapsed and fell down dead.
As soon as the Siklarix was out of sight, Hiriki stopped running and went into the Siklarix’s cave where he saw a large torch burning brightly. “Pick up the torch”, said the Goddess, “It holds the flying fire, a weapon of great destructive power. That fire can leap great distances and incinerate all that it touches and it will obey the will of the torch holder”.
“I cannot believe how easy it was to defeat that bizarre, terrifying creature”, said Hiriki.
“Easy for a courageous and an intelligent man”, said the Goddess.