The Lake of Stars

Boyd E Pearson


The stream ambled gently through the valley of the sparsely vegetated hills, terminating in a deep clear lake. The lake teemed with small translucent fish that darted to and fro unseen beneath the still surface. A multiform of lizards and amphibians squirmed fitfully on its rocky shores, while overhead the air hummed with a myriad of multicoloured insects. Dark pillows of basalt warmed by the day's sun lay against the lake's foreshore. With the last vestiges of daylight the maiden Lyana lounged upon the weather-worn boulder, brushing her waist-length silken hair. Staring blankly in to the still waters of the lake she played her toe across the surface lazily and watched the ripples disperse towards the bodies centre.

At the centre of the lake a crystal of unique ocular properties was set into the basalt floor, its depth concealing its presence to the dwellers above. Aeons of scientific inquiry and endeavour, had resulted in the construction of an observatory, that utilised the natural light warping properties of a lake as part of a tool to map the cosmos. Below the surface, the image was channelled through a network of esoterically applied prisms, mirrors and crystal rods designed to leave the viewer with an image of uncompromising clarity.

The hamlet of Maspin, had obliviously gone about its daily business for more than a century unaware that the lake, which was both provider of food and water, was actually an artificially constructed observatory millions of years old. Its placement in this flat secluded plane was calculated to yield a maximum viewing angle of the skies above and minimise any interference by the local fauna.

"Damn human in the way again" growled Mel'thok at his scurrying underlings. He had been trying to track the path of a comet whose orbit kept it low on the horizon, when a white blob obscured his view. Readjusting the viewing mechanism he was loath to discover a human female strangely preoccupied with her cranial growth. "What is it with theses humans?" he spat rhetorically "don't they have better things to do?" he continued, casting sharp glances at those not fast enough to remove themselves from his gaze.

The 'humans' as they called themselves were a recent evolution from a hirsute savage biped species who dwelt in the heaving jungles of the low lands. It was their rudimentary tool use, and basic vocal language skills that had made them of scientific merit to the serpent-people. This skill had developed since their tree-dwelling stage. Mel'thok had always thought the analysis of humans was a frivolous waste of time, and preferred to study what he believed were far nobler sciences, that of cosmology and astronomy. He had, as had all of the noble cast, studied the various treatises and monographs on the surface biota and its evolution over the scant four million years since their arrival. He had surmised, that the humans' savagery along with their evolving weapon building skill, would one day result in their own destruction, if not the whole planet's. This view when expressed, at one of the symposiums, that as a noble he had felt obliged to attend, had done little for his reputation.

The serpent-people had arrived when the earth was a mere molten rock covered with bubbling oceans and volcanic islands, spewing sulphurous gases in to the lightning strewn grey skies. Just like home Mel'thok thought; not that he had ever seen home. He had however spent a considerable amount of time in the richly adorned corridors that separated the six noble sanctums. These corridors were hung with tapestries that chronicled the great events and leaders of the serpent-people. The most recent of which showed the formation of this colony out of the still-hot stone of that primordial land.

"There that savage is again and in the same place as yesterday" Mel'thok hissed showing rare anger for a noble. This time there were no underlings to vent his frustration at, having learnt their lesson the day before. There is but one course of action I can take, thought Mel'thok, if I am to complete my opus on the comet. A comet whose orbit brought it in to view only once every thousand years.

The council met later that evening in the oldest chamber of the colony. It was hexagonal in shape with each high wall tapering off to a point like the inside of a sprier. The chamber was centred with a hexagon of a white marble stone some ten meters across rilled with blood red veins of sapphire. The corners of the central hexagon were punctuated with obsidian obelisks that thrust out of the floor like the six tapering fingers of a serpent-persons hand. Within each protrusion a dais was embedded facing the outer wall. Gazing downwardly Mel'thok sauntered in to the rooms hub.

Addressing the five obsidian obscured members he intoned all the required affirmations of respect and gratitude to the council, with a glib formality that did not go unnoticed by the seated members.

"I come to ask the members for their consent in a trivial matter" began Mel'thok's oratory "A certain human female has, by the choice of a particular position in which to daily preen her fur, seriously jeopardised my ability to successfully track the course of a certain comet. I therefore ask that I be given permission to send an underling to the surface in order to dispose of this obstacle to my scientific endeavour."

It was in deliberation that the true purpose of the chambers shape was reviled. While the council members words passed around the outer ring Mel'thok could hear nothing but the sound of his own expectant breath.

"It is the decision of the council to decline your request at this time" came the reply from Maj'bma as he stepped in to the centre. Maj'bma was one of those nobles who specialised in the study of the surface life forms. The ones whom Mel'thok had shown perhaps a little to much contempt for on previous occasions. Before Mel'thok got a chance to rebut, Maj'bma continued. "There is a proposal to be tabled, by myself, in a terran month or two that the entire human tribe be captured, studied, and ultimately dissected in order to add to our knowledge of this most fascinating organism." Mel'thok's eye slits narrowed as he began to speak, but before his first syllable was uttered Maj'bma continued. "It therefore would not be appropriate for you to remove a member of this ecology at this time. As I understand it you still have two days left to view the comet. More to the point, you know our edicts about interfering with the surface ecology"

With his fists clenched to his sides in order to control the rising anger, Mel'thok stomped from the chamber. Back in his quarters, still fuming about the councils decision, he slumped in to his viewing chair and adjusted the mechanism to take in a full panorama of the skies above. There he sat transfixed by the cosmos that his life's work had been dedicated to; more than his life, his entire blood line were astronomers of singular skill. And with the weight of his ancestry on his shoulders he knew that no council or human could be allowed to interfere with his destiny.


Lyana once again found herself idly dwelling on her favoured rock of the lake's foreshore; enjoying the last vestiges of spring's twilight's gaze. It was an almost inaudibly soft hiss from behind that drew her out of the somnambulistic gaze that characterised her twilight thoughts. Glancing over to the small hillock from where the sound arose, Lyana froze in terror, her dilated pupils allowing the full visage of this horrid apparition to burn itself in to her mind. Highlighted by the crimson remains of the setting sun, his sinuously erect turquoise scalded visage stood a mere meter from where she sat. While humanoid in shape, it was like no human Lyana had ever seen, or even dreamed of in her worse terror filled nights - over seven feet tall it stood clad in interlocking green scales like one of the lizards of the lake's foreshore. Its head, like a flattened humans with a protruding jaw line and diamond shaped sunken eye sockets. A thin sliver of pink forked tongue protruded between its lips. A vertiginous terror gripped her mind freezing her as solid as any chiselled statue.

There she was. This small white fragment of mammal flesh that had caused him so many problems. She who had forced him to break the ruling of the council in order for him not to disgrace his blood line. Mel'thok began to laugh speciously at the irony of his intended action. A noble of the great serpent-people forced in to such a barbaric action by such a whelp. The Serpent-people had long ago stopped eating flesh in preference for synthetic aliments, and who would only interact with the surface in the aid of science. 'Yet I would come up here and disgrace my ancestors by eradicating this animal' Mel'thok chuckled bitterly to himself.

Turning to leave he returned the Manipulator to his pocket. In doing so he realised that he still carried one of the damaged filtering crystals from the telescope. He had replaced it earlier that day and had absent-mindlessly left it in his cloak. An alternative plan came to mind and he turned to face the girl again. Taking the Manipulator and crystal out of his pocket, he approached the girl in what he thought was a non-threatening way. Understanding her still petrified state, he adjusted the settings of the manipulator to 'pacify' and discharged it at her.

It was as if the lake behind her had reached out and poured over the fires of her terror and washed away all the human instinct, that natural fear of the unfamiliar. No longer did she perceive a vision of horror before her, but rather observed a curiosity not unlike seeing a new animal or plant for the first time.

"Who, what are you?" she queried with a lucidity that would not have been conceivable mere moments ago.

"I am Mel'thok" he lisped in the best human voice his vocal muscles could muster. He had read Maj'bma's essay on the human language but had made no attempt to master the pronunciation. "I have an offer to make you" he continued "do you understand what I am saying?"


"I will give you this precious gem" Mel'thok held up the crystal. "If you do not return to this place for a week" Mel'thok hoped that what he had read about the value humans placed on rare mined minerals was correct.

"But why," she queried.

"It doesn't matter, will you agree?"

Lyana eyed the crystal in his hand, even in this dimming light she saw how pretty it was. "Yes" she said with widening eyes.

Placing the gem on the ground Mel'thok returned to the coppice where the elevator was hidden. On his return to his chambers he mused over his successes both in getting the human out of the way, and getting away with disobeying the council. Failure in the latter would have resulted in a death sentence.


Lyana rose to the sounds of a village wakening around her. Gingerly she padded across the chill earth floor of her parents' thatched hut to the door way. Lethargically she recalled the encounter with the creature by the lake - or was that a dream still fresh in her mind - she was not sure. At the door way she slid her hands in to the pockets of her robe seeking the warmth within. Instead she found a pebble-sized transparent crystal, with a milky centre, that seemed to swirl with an inner energy. Holding it up to the sun to admire its' beauty, she was struck by the warmth that seemed to emanate from it.

The first rays of dawn passing though the crystal became a hueless projection of the serpent-peoples' own native sun. A sun whose singular phosphorescent properties had not only illuminated the land but shaped the very evolution of the planet's fauna and flora. The radiation from the crystal, like the emissions from that icy remote star were not a source of change but a trigger - a trigger that woke a dormant part of the human brain and started an evolution millions of years earlier.

A dreamy slowness befell Lyana's mind, as she bathed in the crystals eminence. It was as if she was a passive observer watching the transformations take place in another although fully aware that it was her self that was changing. She could both see and feel the changes creeping through her body, like the roots of a tree searching for fertile soil.

It began at her feet. Scale upon scale grew out of her skin interlocking in to a seamless mesh that coiled up her body till all but her face was covered with a shimmering green. Simultaneously, the flesh of her body contracted against her stretching bones, giving her a look of starved emaciation. The changes weren't only physical. The human hysteria that would have come if her mental facilities were left intact was abated by her new psychology. Both her views of self, and the environment, took on a detached analytical tint.


Mel'thok smugly sat down to the telescope that evening in the knowledge that he would finally get to track the comet. Moving the eye piece in to position he was dumb struck to find that once again his view was obscured by what appeared to be the same girl. Cursing himself for a fool for thinking that he could trust a savage. Once again, he took the elevator to the surface to confront the human.

"I knew you would come here" Lyana spat in serpent tongue. Raising her arms in emphasis she continued "Look what you have done to me. Look what I have become".

It was unclear what surprised Mel'thok more - this cross between a serpent-woman and a human or the sound of serpent-speak through human vocal cords. Both of which where new experiences for him. Only those of supreme merit were given the honour of furthering a bloodline; something Mel'thok always kept in mind when working in his observatory.

"How?" was the only thing Mel'thok could say faced with this accusing creature. Surely it was the face of that human female, but the body.. 'how was this possible?' he thought.

"That damn crystal you gave me" Lyana continued with accusing forefinger jabbing the air for emphasis. "It changed me in to this thing, my tribe, even my own parents began to attack me as some demon, thanks to you. Now change me back!"

With his composure recovered Mel'thok saw the outcome of his folly. His prodigious desire to master the art of astronomy and live up to the expectations of his ancestry had resulted in this antithesis. The comet was now out of sight for another thousand years, and in his disobedience to the council he had not only created this creature, but in doing so disrupted the whole ecosystem of the lake.

"Come with me" Mel'thok said taking Lyana by the wrist. "I don't know how but I will make this right" Mel'thok resolved himself to the fate that would be metered out by the council. He was certain it would be death, but at least that would free him from the torment of his actions.

Lyana did not want to go, but nor did she see any alternative. There was no returning to the village while still looking like a monster. And perhaps with the serpent-peoples' technology the process could be reversed.


Passing in front of one of the telescopes mirrors Lyana saw for the first time, in perfect reflection, what she had become. An abomination, not of this time, no longer the flesh of Sol nor that nether world sun - but a ghastly amalgam of the two. Amongst her own people she would be feared and loathed as a monster; and to the serpent-people whose cold remoteness was now part of her, a fine research paper her transformation would make for some noble.

In horror she realised where she was, the diabolical laboratory of the fiend who had mutated her. Her humanity stripped, body and soul, by this eldritch demon. Glancing around in a hysteria-filled countenance she grabbed the nearest object to her - a podium. Howling, she swung the podium with such force that even the telescopes steel scaffolding yielded to her fury. Mel'thok hissed with rage as the telescope he had spent countless hours peering though sprayed across the room. The air resonated with the sounds of shattering glass and steel as Mel'thok thrust out one of his long sinuous arms in an effort to stop the rampaging Lyana. However, before he could get close enough that fury-wielded spinning podium sent him sprawling amongst the fragments from that occult mechanism.

With Lyana's anguish still raging above him Mel'thok found the manipulator that had joined most of the contents of his chamber on the floor. Firing up in to her anger crimsoned face, still free of the scales that had enveloped the rest of her body, he did not realise that the setting had been altered by its fall. The manipulator replaced her head with a fine mist of pink which hung momentarily motionless within the still air of the observatory. The manipulators beam did not stop there, directly above Lyana the crystal viewing port was set in to the roof. With a faint sound like a puff of wind the perfectly hewn crystal was turned in to fine shimmering powder.

It was the sound that was noticed first as it reverberated through the domiciles and connecting corridors. A sound like two great solid masses striking each other at such a pace as to make the sound continuous and whose echoes made it directionless. Curiously looking up from their work, noble and underling alike, were given a mere second to contemplate this unknown intrusion.

The water thrashed through the basalt corridors of the subterranean complex. Nothing that was not built out of the solid stone could withstand the force of the water and even the walls where blasted smooth by the torrents ferocity. The energy contained within the wave front stripped clean the contents of the chambers it passed through - both serpent-man and furnishings where smashed with callous abandon against the solid rock hewn walls. Under such an onslaught, and in the mere moments afforded them, there was little any of the serpent people could do.

Although Mel'thok was the instigator of his own, and the colony's destruction, he was the last to succumb to it. By fate's cruel hand he was carried in relative safety through the rapidly inundated complex in to the great hall. There, clinging in to one of those basalt protrusions, he was afforded an unenviable number of moments to contemplate his actions, and their consequences, as the water rose to engulf him.

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