The Last Muskellunge – The Monksville Chronicles (99/124)

Open Water

One king’s fall gives reign to another.
Two beings float cold from The Dome.

The Last Muskellunge

Far beneath the surface of the Mighty Mother Monksville, Leonidas floats petrified as he watches the black miasma of sick death and ruin spread through the water like rage through the mind of a mad king bested by forces he can’t understand. Then, a flashyshiny swims swiftly before his eyes and Leonidas immediately forgets about whatever it was that so disturbed him a moment ago. He is the king of Monksville, the last muskellunge, and he will bring an end to that blasphemous pretty object.

The chase is intense and lasts until both parties have moved deep into Muskellunge Cove. The Giant rows hard, swift, and true, but no mere landwalker can possibly hope to match the speed of a charging muskellunge. Leonidas takes the mighty spoonplug into his toothy maw and the hooks sink in deep – all at once he remembers his father Anaxandridas, the mad king of Monksville, the first king of Monksville, and that awful dread of repeating a terrible cycle sinks its teeth into Leo’s scaly hide.

Though The Giant does not hold the longpole in either of his hands, he senses when his lure has been taken. He drops the oars and lunges forward, gripping the pole with his left hand, struggling to remove it from the mount so he can secure it in the contraption perched on his right wrist and give this muskellunge the fight it deserves. The handle of the pole slips through his looped false fingers and The Giant closes his left hand over the handle of the reel. Suddenly he’s up on two legs; the boat is rocking, the waves are churning, his feet are soaking wet, but he does not relent and neither does King Leonidas, the hooks sink deeper and deeper into him, the barbs shredding flesh and the point digging into his jawbone but he does not feel it, does not acknowledge the pain, this giant killed his father and so Leonidas must return the favor, he shall pull the landwalking monster into the water and drown him, he’ll close his maw around the horrible blaspheme’s neck and skewer him with his own hooks, he’ll bring a fitting end to this damned fishcatching giant even if it kills him. For Anaxandridas, Leonidas gives everything he has.

But it just isn’t enough.

The Giant reels hard and true, the longpole arcs like lightning, it bends but does not break; finally, after cycles upon cycles of traversing Monksville’s murky waters and bringing nothing back to show for it, the force opposing his pole gives out, the muskellunge bursts forth from the water’s surface in a virulent thrash, and the Great Spirit smiles down upon the denizens in awe. The Giant catches Leonidas in both arms and nearly buckles at the knees, but despite the mighty muskellunge’s flailing about, The Giant keeps to his feet.

Leonidas stops flailing as his gills begin to dry; soon his mouth is gaping, gasping for Monksville’s water. The Giant falls back and lands on his seat, the longpole still in his closed metal hand, and rests the muskellunge on his lap. For a moment he can only stare with tears in his eyes, tears of joy, tears of gratitude, tears any grown giant will cry when they finally land the massive lakebreather they relentlessly pursued their entire life, and it is massive, it’s as long as a giant is tall and heavier than a small giant two, even four cycles after receiving a name, and though The Giant savors this moment, this glorious moment, this moment which makes it all worthwhile, he knows it will not last. It can’t last, for he’s already brought an untimely death to one muskellunge, and one muskellunge slain is two too many. Working with a focus sharp enough to peer into the mind of another being, The Giant reaches into the king of Monksville’s mouth and carefully, very carefully, removes the black hooks from the lakebreathing beast’s fragile, toothy maw. The work is not easy but it’s swiftly complete, and the spoonplug may come out dripping with the muskellunge’s hot blood, but what matters is that it comes out at all.

The Giant reaches and removes the longpole from his metal right hand, tossing it to the sole of his boat. Then, he takes one last look at the biggest catch of his life, the beautiful lone muskellunge, its scaly hide the green of an emerald painted from head to tail with wavy psychedelic stripes which dance all on their own like leafy trees in the wind – legends tell of how a muskellunge grows a stripe for every lakebreather it slays, but… well, legends tell of all sorts of things, don’t they? – its fins a burning orange, its mouth lined with teeth as long as The Giant’s fingers are wide. If there was ever a moment in time that should last forever, this moment would be the one, this moment shared between the victorious fishcatcher and the bested king of Monksville floating on the lake in the final days before all hell broke loose and the long curtain began to draw across the valley shaped like a crescent moon. But moments cannot last forever, and so The Giant does what he must do: gives Leonidas a kiss on the crown, on the very spot where his oar struck the fish’s father all those cycles ago, and tosses the muskellunge overboard.

Leonidas floats there, just beneath the surface of the water, seeming lifeless as a piece of driftwood, and for a half of a moment The Giant fears the worst, but then the king muskellunge’s tailfin twitches, then his dorsal does the same, and then he is gone, vanished into the murky green depths that will all too soon spoil a rotten, virulent black.

The Giant lays back in his soaked boat, draws a deep breath, then WHOOPs at the top of his lungs. The WHOOP carries across the water and is caught by all the giants in the land, all the giants who once belonged to the Monks Tribe, the stewards of the greatest Reservoir in the world, and in that moment, a wondrous harmony falls over the fabled valley shaped like a crescent moon, a harmony to be remembered by all of us until there are none of us left to remember it.

This has been the sixteenth subchapter of the last chapter of The Monksville Chronicles. Here is everything you need to know about it:

The Monksville Chronicles

I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.

The Hillside Commons has a Facebook page. Here’s that.

If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~

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